PORTLAND – The new Ocean Avenue Elementary School is on track to be completed eight months ahead of schedule and $5.4 million under budget, according to contractors on the state-funded project.

The school was supposed to be built and ready to furnish by May 2011, and open to students in September 2011.

Instead, construction will be completed by this September and the school could open in January, said Kevin McCosh, project manager for Ledgewood Construction of South Portland.

The school was projected to cost $19.6 million when it was designed in 2008, but it will wind up costing only $14.2 million once it’s filled with desks, computers and other furnishings, said Mike Johanning, project manager for WBRC Architects-Engineers of Portland.

The price is down because the recession increased competition among contractors and reduced the cost of some materials, while favorable weather and good planning accelerated the builder’s timeline.

“The mild winter we had certainly worked in our favor,” McCosh said.

The new school will replace the 103-year-old Clifford Elementary School on Falmouth Street, which serves 300 students. Clifford kindergarten students toured the new building’s site Friday.

Barring unanticipated delays, WBRC plans to have the new building furnished in time to welcome students in January, after school vacation, Johanning said.

Superintendent Jim Morse said he’s pleased that WBRC and Ledgewood have set an aggressive timeline, but it’s unclear whether the new school will open before September 2011. If a midyear move is possible, he will ask the School Committee to consider it.

Morse and Clifford Principal Beverly Coursey are scheduled to talk about the new school at a Back Cove Neighborhood Association meeting on May 17 in the administration building at Cheverus High School. The meeting will start at 7 p.m.

The new school is expected to draw students from Clifford, Longfellow, Presumpscot and Riverton elementary schools.

Ledgewood started building the 440-student school last summer, using environmentally sensitive materials and methods.

The masonry exterior is about half finished, McCosh said. Landscaping on the 12-acre site will start this week and continue through the summer, including work on drainage ponds, playgrounds and athletic fields.

In the two-thirds of the building that contains classrooms, workers are painting and installing flooring and ceilings, he said. In the cafeteria and gymnasium, they’re finishing interior framing and installing plumbing and wiring.

 

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

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