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Construction won't delay start of school


Principal says project may be done in September



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August 13, 2013 | 09:14 AM
LINN — Heavy machinery rolls across the sand outside Reek School.

Bricks pulled from the outside walls lie in a mountainous heap. Entire rooms appear gutted by storms, their ceiling tiles gone, wires hanging down like jungle serpents.

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And workers are everywhere — on top of the roof, on scaffolding, painting the inside walls, or making their way through corridors cluttered with boxes and classroom furniture.

"People are like, 'Are you going to be ready for school?' Yes we are," Principal Samantha Polek said Aug. 7.

She said the current target date for project completion is end of September.

In the meantime, the desks for Polek and Administrative Assistant Ronda Davis are in the school's library, as they await construction of the new front entrance, foyer and office.

"It feels like summer camp," Polek said. "I love the library. Part of me always wanted to be a librarian."

She said she finds construction in general fascinating, and it "has added a new element" to her summer. Polek discussed her fascination with construction — the trades, the machines — and shared numerous photos she has taken throughout the process.

"It looks worse than it is," she said about the cluttered hallways and rooms. "A lot of that is superficial, can be cleaned very quickly. Our custodians are working very hard every day."

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Polek admitted there is a general concern that Reek won't be ready when students will begin the 2013-14 school year Tuesday, Sept. 3.

The concern is understandable. After all, no one can park in the lot, which for the moment is a desert ruled by machines — some of which have tires bigger than an average person.

It has created minor difficulties for people like Polek just to make it in to school.

But Polek didn't seem bothered.

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"This project is something everybody wanted and it was so needed that to be slightly inconvenienced, it doesn't even matter," she said.

The project

It took a couple years and three referendum elections before the Reek district could reach this point.

Twice in 2011, a $3.9 million renovation project failed to receive voter approval. On Nov. 6, 2012, the majority of district voters approved a $2.8 million project.

Deteriorating bricks and roofs were a driving factor in the school board's reasoning behind the project. Other aspects of the project include improving technology and school safety.

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Two important parts of the ongoing safety work are the parking lot and the main entrance to the school.

A 180-foot access drive will be installed east of the lot. Also, 36 parking stalls will be added, and traffic flow will be redirected so that the west side of the L-shaped lot will be for buses only. Motorists dropping off and picking up children will use the eastern side of the lot.

The main entrance will have a foyer, ending the days of being buzzed in to enter the school's main hallway without passing by the front office. Visitors will have to go through the office, once the new entrance is completed.

"Everything's going very well and on schedule," Polek said. "However, this is a crucial timing toward the end of August."

She said the project itself, headed by Scherrer Construction, Burlington, consists of multiple smaller projects — one group is working on the brick, another the roof. There are groups working on the parking lot, the new entrance, several inside the school — each handling their tasks and it "creates a sort of domino effect," Polek said.

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"We're still planning to have the west entrance ready," she said. "We may just have to use that west side of the school — children know it as the bus entrance. We're considering the possibility that we may need to use that as our main entrance if the (lot) is not completely finished by Sept. 3."

The likelihood of that is "probable," Polek said.

Different aspects of the project are in various stages of completion.

She said the new brick is about three-quarters installed. The roof installation is about halfway finished. Footings have been poured for the new entrance.

The wireless Internet service upgrade, however, is ready.

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"We're starting a one-to-one device program with just a few grades this year," Polek said. "We're starting a one-to-one iPad program for grades 2, 4 and 5."

As for the main office, Polek said she wasn't sure.

The likely last stage of the project?

The parking lot, she said. "That's the thing we doubt will be ready — highly doubt will be ready — by the start of school."

School business

With the lot still under construction, Reek has had to find other ways to operate.

For example, registration won't take place at school this year.

On Tuesday, Aug. 20, it will be at the Linn Town Hall, W3728 Franklin Walsh St., Zenda, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

And although parents have frequently roamed the Reek halls during the summer, Polek said they're still happy to show families the work that's going on, but "just call first" before showing up.

Will classrooms be ready for children?

Yes, said Polek.

But what about her office?

"Just getting into the office is the only thing now," she said. "We believe we will be in the office (by Sept. 3), but if by chance we have to stay in the library, it wouldn't be the worst thing."

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