Construction on the new Eisenhower High School campus has been delayed a few weeks. But despite a few snags, Yakima School District officials still plan to move into the building on schedule.
The district had originally set June 21 of this year as the completion date for the building. Now, a year and a half after crews broke ground in August 2011, Superintendent Elaine Beraza says that probably won’t happen.
“Even though they’re making substantial progress ... I don’t think we’re gonna make that date,” Beraza said. “Granted, there would be things to do to bring it closer to that date, but those would require more money.”
There are provisions in the contract between the school district and head contractor Graham Construction of Spokane that deal with the responsibilities of both Graham and the district for completing the project on time. But to prove who is to blame for delays would require attorneys, according to Beraza, and district officials say they are not at a point where they want to pursue litigation.
“At this point, I’m not willing at all to back off the fact that we’re going to be in the school building at the beginning of the year,” she said.
The 2013-14 school year starts Aug. 27. The new school, one of Yakima’s most complicated large projects in years, will be 327,000 square feet when finished and have a 2,400-student capacity.
Beraza said she has not been able to get a clear explanation from contractors or the architect for the delay.
The new Ike is part of a massive 20-year, $114 million bond passed by Yakima voters in 2009 to rebuild the school, as well as renovate Davis High School and Stanton Academy, the district’s alternative high school. Due to issues with the old Stanton facility, the district opted instead to build a new Stanton on River Road, which opened in time for the current school year. The district broke ground on the Davis remodel in early November, and plans to have that project completed by September 2015.
At only 50,000 square feet and a much simpler design, Stanton could be completed in just under a year, said district construction planning principal Jim Wright.
He’s still holding onto Ike’s June 21 deadline, and says crews have made good progress in catching up in recent months.
“Midsummer, late summer, we were really kind of wondering ... they were probably a month or so behind at the end of the summer,” he recalled. Now, he estimates they’re about 2 1/2 weeks behind schedule. “For every issue that’s come up, we’ve been able to work through those and get caught up.”
Everything takes a little longer than expected once a project has begun, he says.
“I think the biggest delay has been the size of the project. It really hasn’t been any one person or any one trade that’s caused the delay,” he said. In talking with other districts that have built new schools, he said they’ve been told the situation is very common.
The delay is most obvious in the west wing of the new school, where future classrooms are still encased in stud walls without dry wall or windows.
“They were hoping to have it pretty well glassed in, but it just takes longer,” he said. “It’s been a little inconvenient by not having all the windows in, but they’re working around it.”
Crews have fixed giant sheets of plastic around nonglassed-in areas so they can heat the rooms to a proper temperature for taping, texturing and painting, which won’t set correctly if done in the cold.
Graham has increased its workdays to 10 hours, and has crews on site six days a week, up from five days earlier in the process.
“They’ve sped it up,” Wright said. “It’s in their best interest to get things done,” to keep costs in line and allow them to move on to the next project.
In the opposite wing of the new school, crews have already finished with the dry wall, painting and windows in many places. That wing houses more specific-use facilities, such as a weight room, technical classrooms for shop class and other vocational instruction, science labs and the photo room.
Those classrooms will take longer to set up with all the proper equipment, Wright said. Once the generic classrooms in the west wing have been dry- walled and glassed in, it won’t take as much to have them ready for teachers to move in.
That space will be occupied by English, social studies or math classes, Wright said, though the rooms haven’t yet been assigned.
Both Wright and Beraza say they are adamant that the contractor will not be allowed or encouraged to take any shortcuts to get the project done on time. The contractor and the district both have quality control teams.
“In the forefront of our mind is having a quality building that meets the needs of the kids,” Beraza said. “I would probably never rush anything and have something that would be substandard.”
Beraza also contradicted any concerns that Ike is taking funds away from the Davis remodel by reiterating that they are separate and unrelated.
“There wouldn’t be money coming out of the Davis project ever, ever, ever for the Ike project,” she said.
• Molly Rosbach can be reached at 509-577-7728 or firstname.lastname@example.org.