James Demichelis, with Specialty Cleaning Services, cleans a window facing into the entry area at the new Soda Creek Elementary School on Thursday. The ceiling, which was constructed using white and blue ceiling tiles to resemble a sky, is one of the unique features at the school, which is nearing completion.

Photo by Matt Stensland

James Demichelis, with Specialty Cleaning Services, cleans a window facing into the entry area at the new Soda Creek Elementary School on Thursday. The ceiling, which was constructed using white and blue ceiling tiles to resemble a sky, is one of the unique features at the school, which is nearing completion.

Schools on schedule

Denney: Middle school, Strawberry Park will be ready for start of classes

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Jeff Maib, husband of Steamboat Springs School District superintendent Shalee Cunningham, volunteers Thursday at the Soda Creek Elementary School playground construction project. Maib was helping line the ground of the playground with insulation for a snowmelt system.

— The schools will open on time.

That promise from Steamboat Springs School District Facilities Director Rick Denney means that all of the semitrailers, construction equipment and crews crawling around Strawberry Park Elementary School and Steamboat Springs Middle School will have to clear out in a little more than a week, even as Denney coordinates construction at the school district's two new playgrounds.

Work at Soda Creek Elementary School also remains on schedule, with move-in tentatively scheduled for Oct. 6. All schools, however, will begin classes Aug. 25, with Soda Creek students remaining at "Camp Soda Creek" on Seventh Street until the new building is ready.

"School will open on time as scheduled, including the middle school," Denney said. "I haven't missed a school opening in 20 years, and I don't want to start now."

Denney has served as the district's facilities director for all of those 20 years. He said the sidewalk work in front of the middle school will not change any of the school's opening plans.

"What you see at the middle school now and what you will see when the students show up will be substantially different," he said.

Denney said it will be a tight schedule to get all of the work finished, including moving classrooms into Strawberry Park Elementary and completing the parking lots, entrances and exits to the area that have been torn up in the construction process.

Denney said parents will not see any difference in the way they get to the school or drop off their children. The parking lot entrance and exit will be restored to their regular configuration, with a pick-up and drop-off zone to the east and long-term parking to the west.

Although the school will be ready for its opening, middle school Principal Tim Bishop said parents must remember the project is not scheduled to be complete until December. In the meantime, the entrance to the middle school will include a covered walkway to separate students from the construction site.

"Everything is coming along," Denney said. "But it's kind of stressful this time of year."

Students also are encouraged to walk or bike to school, despite construction on the back areas of the middle school along the Butcher Knife Creek Trail. Denney said part of the trail will be closed, but students instead will walk through the track and not be hindered by the changes.

The only problem could be the vandals who knocked the railings off of the footbridge on the trail, breaking them. Denney said it happened Wednesday evening, and he was unsure how long it will take to replace the railings.

Construction of the new Soda Creek Elementary School also is nearing completion for the tentative Oct. 6 opening. The carpet is laid, the ceiling tiles largely are in place and cables are being run throughout the building as painters fill in the finishing touches and wash off the windows.

Furniture for the building will be delivered Sept. 25.

The playgrounds, largely built during the two community-build days last month, still require volunteers to finish the ground work and to install insulation, the snowmelt system and preparation for cement.

Denney said only one volunteer regularly has showed up to work.

Denney said volunteers with work gloves, a shovel and a rake are needed today, Monday and Tuesday. Skilled workers are needed Wednesday to install the hydronic piping system for the snowmelt.

TIC will donate workers to pour the cement Wednesday, he said, so all other work must be completed by that time.

Denney said he often is too busy to be on the site himself as the school construction continues, but he welcomes workers at all times during the day.

- To reach Zach Fridell, call 871-4208

or e-mail zfridell@steamboatpilot.com

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