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Willmar schools buzzing with activity as building program progresses

Joe Brown, left, and Carter Sack, block layers for Double J Concrete & Masonry, shovel excess concrete into a bucket Thursday evening at the construction site of the new elementary school in southeast Willmar. Construction will be finished Sept. 5, 2017. (Briana Sanchez / Tribune)1 / 4
One of the new, nearly finished science classrooms at Willmar Middle School is shown Thursday. The eight science classrooms should be ready to open early in 2017 (Briana Sanchez / Tribune)2 / 4
A hallway to the new science classrooms at Willmar Middle School is shown Thursday evening. The new wing is nearly complete, and the classrooms should be ready early next year. (Briana Sanchez / Tribune)3 / 4
Ross Barten, Lake Country Mechanical, uses a remote control Thursday evening to operate a compactor over layers of dirt at the construction site of the new elementary school in southeast Willmar. (Briana Sanchez / Tribune)4 / 4

WILLMAR — After months of site preparation and utility work, walls are going up at the new Willmar elementary school. A name for the school will be needed soon.

The new science classroom additions at Willmar Middle School are nearly finished. There's sod on the ground outside, and workers are installing terrazzo flooring inside.

Site preparation started recently on a gymnasium and physical education addition at Willmar Senior High School.

Work on the district's $52 million building program is humming along on many fronts. Some are obvious, like the building additions. Others aren't as visible but have been badly needed by the district.

About $9 million of the bond issue voters approved in 2015 was designated for deferred maintenance projects.

Superintendent Jeff Holm told the School Board at its meeting last week that the elementary school is on track for completion for the start of the 2017-18 school year.

The fourth bid package will be issued in January, he said, and that will be for exterior work, including signs. "So we need to find a name," he said, and he will be working on that process.

Holm said he is surveying staff members so plans can move ahead for the transition from two to three elementary schools.

The eight Middle School science classrooms should be ready to open early in 2017, Holm said.

The new double-court gym, gymnastics gym and fitness center at the high school is expected to open in late 2017.

Also at the Nov. 14 meeting, Business and Finance Director Pam Harrington ran down a list of the maintenance projects already finished and those still to come.

Tuckpointing of the exterior at the Kennedy, Garfield and Jefferson buildings was completed in the past summer. Sealing work on the exterior will be done next summer.

The board will be awarding a contract at its December meeting for updating electrical equipment at Kennedy. The work will be done in June, when the building is expected to be without power for about a week.

New boilers at the Jefferson and Middle School buildings have been installed. Employees are training on using the new equipment and doing some fine-tuning, Harrington said.

Still to come will be roof work at the Kennedy, Roosevelt and Senior High buildings. Architects are working on improving heating and ventilation systems at the Kennedy and Senior High buildings, Harrington said.

Other work planned for the next year include window and door replacement at Kennedy, fire suppression at Roosevelt and remodeling projects in several schools. Architects are working on the remodeling plans, now that the three largest projects are in construction.

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340