February 26, 2010

New Westbrook Middle School to open for classes Wednesday


— By

20091229_Westbrook JHS
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20091229_Westbrook JHS

Staff Writer

WESTBROOK — School officials say students can start classes at the new Westbrook Middle School on Wednesday.

The steering committee for the $34 million building met with project managers from Harriman Associates on Thursday to discuss several items remaining on the contractor's to-do list.

The committee voted 6-1 in favor of accepting the building as complete.

The certificate of substantial completion means the school is ready to occupy and all of its utility systems are working and code-compliant, said Dan Cecil of Harriman Associates, the project architect. It also means the facilities staff has been trained to operate the systems.

Cecil said workers for Harvey Construction have completed about 65 percent of the items they had to finish. The remaining work is mostly cosmetic, such as a broken ceiling tile, a scratch on a wall and a bathroom that needs handicapped-access bars. ''The building is working well,'' Cecil said during the meeting. ''We will be monitoring the systems with you to make sure it is functioning as it should be.''

Some committee members expressed reservations about accepting ownership of the building, with work still to be done. Edward Symbol, chairman of the School Committee, said opening the school Wednesday would be a mistake.

''To put the pressure on the custodial staff next week and work a miracle isn't fair,'' Symbol said. ''We haven't met a deadline yet, and I don't think we will meet this one.''

Cecil said the school is 98 percent to 99 percent finished and there's no reason why city officials shouldn't take it over. ''Harvey Construction still owns the building,'' Cecil said. ''They are paying the utilities and the building is ready to be occupied. It's not fair to Harvey to wait another two weeks.''

Workers from Harvey Construction will clean the school this weekend.

Teachers will unpack their boxes Tuesday and get training on the school's keyless entry system and the equipment in their classrooms.

The facilities staff will begin cleaning the school Tuesday afternoon for students to begin on Wednesday.

Questions were raised in the meeting about whether the building will be clean for students to start classes. Alan Bickford, director of maintenance and grounds for Westbrook schools, said he didn't think his staff could get the building ready.

Arnold Gaudet, a member of the steering committee, didn't think so, either.

''Someone must have a magic wand,'' Gaudet said. ''When you wax a floor, it has to be dried. No one has been able to explain to me yet how it's going to happen. Why would we subject our students, teachers and staff members to that?''

After the meeting, Bickford said he will do whatever it takes to get the school ready for students.

''Anything is possible,'' he said.

The school's opening was initially scheduled for Dec. 15 -- a date that was never publicized -- then was bumped to Jan. 4 because of construction delays.

Workers cleared out the 37-year-old Wescott Junior High School during school vacation, but the new school failed to pass a city inspection. Students resumed classes at Wescott on Jan. 4.

''They have survived two weeks at that school with such a limited number of supplies and materials,'' Principal Brian Mazjanis said after the meeting. ''I'm so excited for the kids and the teachers. It's been hard on them and they've done a great job. This is a beautiful school and they so deserve to be in it.''

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:


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