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Idaho Enterprise

School Board tours building site

Superintendent Jon Abrams smiles as he observes the progress on the new school building.

On Tuesday of last week, members of School District 351 toured the construction site of Malad’s new elementary school.  Brent Evanson, Chalae Teeples, Tresie Carter, Brandon Ward, and Shane Howard joined construction manager Jared Lusk and Superintendent Jon Abrams as they walked through the site on which Malad’s new elementary school is beginning to take on recognizable dimensions.  During the board's last official tour, the footing for the building had just been laid, and little was visible above the surface.  This time, one wing of classrooms had been largely framed, and the structure that will ultimately become the gym and stage area had risen to an towering height.

“This is a lot bigger than I was thinking it would be.  Even seeing it from the road, you don’t realize how big this is,” Chalae Teeples remarked.  Superintendent Jon Abrams agreed.  “It’s a lot different when it’s really here,” Abrams said.  “Just seeing it on the ground is a totally different thing.”

Jared Lusk, who has been managing the project since last summer when it officially began, walked the group through the emerging skeleton of what will become the new daytime home for many of Oneida County’s elementary school students.  The initial construction was delayed as a result of near-record precipitation throughout last spring, but the milder winter has allowed the project to continue apace.

At present, the areas of the building that are most visible from the street level are the classroom wing to the east side of the school, the eventual entrance and library area, and the new gym.  Lusk was asked numerous questions about what the completed structure would contain, including ceiling dimensions, network infrastructure, safety features, entrances and exits, plumbing, and electrical wiring.  It had been somewhat difficult to conceptualize the physical realities of the building from the schematics, and even the early construction.  Now, the building’s size and capacity are coming more sharply into focus.

The construction is scheduled for completion in November, during which school will be closed for a week to allow for the move to the new school building from the old one.  An open house tour of the new building, and a last look at the old one, has yet to be officially scheduled, but should take place toward the end of summer or the beginning of fall.  Barring any major unforeseen events, the construction should meet its planned timeline for completion.

The school was funded as the result of an equalization bond, which (along with funds saved by the district as a result of its IHLA enrollment) allowed the school to be built without adding to the residents’ property taxes.  The bond passed by a significant margin in the spring election, which is rare not only in Oneida County (this is the result of a third attempt at a bond for a new school) but in the country as a whole.  The old building was deemed to be past its useable lifespan.  As a result of its age and modifications over time, the building was deemed inefficient in terms of heating and cooling (often reaching uncomfortable levels of heat in the summer and requiring high heating costs during the winter), out of date with regard to safety measures and security, patchy in terms of its internal communication and networking systems, and near capacity in terms of room for students.  

The new building will have a modern, high-efficiency HVAC system that should reduce energy costs significantly.  It also features secured access points and building security controls of the type that have become put in place nationwide following many instances of security breaches and failures.  The classrooms have been designed with anticipated increases in the student population over the coming years.  While an auditorium was not a part of the bond, the gym area impressed the school board as being a great new facility for the many school activities currently being held in the gym and throughout other areas of the old school building.

At a recent city council meeting, Jon Abrams updated the council on the progress of the school project.  The bond also included funds for the construction of softball and baseball fields south of Malad High School, which are also underway.  In the next bond cycle, a fieldhouse will be added to the complex.  Abrams reiterated that the complex will be open for reservations from community groups.  “The city has let us use their fields, and it’s only fair that we return the favor,” Abrams said.  An auditorium is also in the works, and planned to be built in the area behind the middle school.  “This is an exciting time to be part of the school district, and this community,” Abrams said.

For the present, construction will continue on the new building facility as scheduled, with the west wing next up for framing.  Once the weather clears and the ground thaws, work will also begin on the interiors of the buildings.  “You can really see it coming together now, and that’s what we like to see,” Lusk said.

Lusk is seeking more help from anyone interested in being a part of the construction project.  Applicants need to be at least 16, and willing to work.  Those interested can contact the school district for more information.

Despite the love and nostalgia associated with the historic old school building, the school board members and many local parents and students are eagerly awaiting their new home away from home, and the anticipation is likely to only grow as the project nears completion.  As visible progress is being made every day, the community is able to think of the new building as a reality, rather than just a artist’s sketch or a blueprint.

“I can’t wait,” Chalae Teeples said, to the nods of the other board members as they explored the still growing building.

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