The opening of Westbrook Middle School in January 2010 was delayed more than two weeks when officials, within days of students returning from winter vacation, decided it wasn’t ready for students.

When classes start up again next week, more than 19 months later, the project still won’t be complete.

Since the middle school opened, there have been issues with the geothermal heating and cooling system that resulted in some parts of the building being colder than they were supposed to be, said City Engineer Eric Dudley.

This summer, the stage in the adjacent Westbrook Performing Arts Center had to be replaced because of problems with the framing beneath it.

The repair of a cracked handrail in the performing arts center is among the few “odds and ends” that Dudley said remain on the to-do list of general contractor Harvey Construction of Bedford, N.H., which has yet to receive its final payment from the district.

“We’re very close to the end,” said Dudley, who hopes to close out the project within a couple of weeks.

When the $34 million school finally opened, there were some officials who still felt it was rushed.

But Superintendent Marc Gousse, who was the high school principal at the time, said he believes the district made the right decision. “We moved in at the right time,” he said.

Both Gousse and Dudley said it’s common to occupy a building when there’s still work to be done. “I can’t think of any major projects that don’t have adjustments,” Gousse said.

They also said the contractor has been responsive to issues that have arisen since the opening a year-and-a-half ago.

“They want to be done with it,” Dudley said, “and we do, too.”

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

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