School work keeps moving forward

USD 257's new elementary school targeted for February 2022 completion, while new science and technology building should be open for next school year.

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January 13, 2021 - 9:45 AM

Steel and masonry work continues at the site of a new science and technology building at the Iola High School campus. The building is expected to be completed by June and ready for students in August. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

The earliest a new elementary school will open in Iola will be more than a year away, in next February, barring any weather delays.

Meanwhile, the new science and technology building remains on track to open in August, in time for the next school year.

The USD 257 school board got an update on its construction projects at a meeting Monday.

Construction work continues at a brisk pace in spite of a recent ice storm. So far, costs have remained under budget.

In March, the board will meet with architects and its construction manager to finalize its “wish list” items for the new school. At that time, the district should have a better idea of what the budget will allow. Back in October, the board learned it could have up to $1 million to fund alternatives that could be added as the project developed, and were given 19 “wish list” items to choose from. 

Some of the things they’ll consider include enclosed upper cabinets in classrooms, a walking trail extension, wider sidewalks, an outdoor basketball court, upgraded lighting in some areas, additional parking bays and a multipurpose area that could be used for an after-school program or other groups.

The district already approved more classrooms (five per grade level rather than four) and adjustable shelves for increased storage.

Construction crews work on the foundation of a new elementary school at Kentucky and Monroe streets. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

DIRT work at the elementary school site has taken several months, as the site had to be remediated to clean up soil contamination. More than 100 years ago, the property was the site of a brick foundry and iron smelting plant, among other industries, which left the soil contaminated with lead. 

Cleanup of the property began in July. Some work was slowed by the coronavirus.

Construction crews have now begun work on the foundation.

As long as the weather cooperates, the project should remain on target for a Feb. 7, 2022, completion date.

At one point, the board was optimistic the school might be open for the next school year. 

The district also is putting together a transition team, which will decide what existing furniture and equipment can be moved to the new school and determine how to best make the move.

WORK is further along on the science building, where construction started earlier and the scope of the project is more narrow.

The building includes a storm shelter, which meant additional safety inspections as construction progressed. It also includes a cafeteria and classrooms for science and technology courses.

Much of the steel and masonry work has been completed, with roof work expected to begin soon. Crews will be able to erect a tent that should allow them to complete masonry work in the cold winter weather months.

“It’s harder to work on buildings in weather like this, but they’re doing the best they can, when they can,” Dan Willis, school board president, told board members. 

“It’s going really well. We’re really happy with where the science building is” in terms of progress, Willis said. 

A tentative completion date for the building is June, which means it should be open in time for classes in August.

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