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Rain, humidity slow progress as district eyes late fall opening of new Latrobe Elementary

Jeff Himler
| Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018, 1:59 a.m.
Crew members install a sidewalk along Cedar Street on Aug. 15, 2018, during construction of the new Latrobe Elementary School in Latrobe.
Crew members install a sidewalk along Cedar Street on Aug. 15, 2018, during construction of the new Latrobe Elementary School in Latrobe.
Workers install a sun screen above windows that face Cedar Street on Aug. 15, 2018, during construction of the new Latrobe Elementary School in Latrobe.
Workers install a sun screen above windows that face Cedar Street on Aug. 15, 2018, during construction of the new Latrobe Elementary School in Latrobe.
Construction crew members work atop a section of the new Latrobe Elementary School roof facing Cedar Street on Tuesday, July 10, 2018, in Latrobe.
Construction crew members work atop a section of the new Latrobe Elementary School roof facing Cedar Street on Tuesday, July 10, 2018, in Latrobe.

Greater Latrobe School District still hopes to make a belated move into its new Latrobe Elementary School by late fall.

But project officials have noted that recent rainy, humid weather has hindered completion of the two-story school that was to have been finished before Aug. 27, the first day of classes for district students.

Meanwhile, the school board on Tuesday is expected to retroactively approve hiring Pittsburgh attorney W. Alan Torrance Jr., who specializes in construction law.

Torrance “will be advising us on any issues, should they arise, with the conclusion of the new Latrobe elementary project,” district Solicitor Ned Nakles said.

District officials declined to comment further on the decision to hire the attorney. A letter of engagement for legal services posted on the district website and signed by district Superintendent Judy Swigart on July 11, sets forth fees of up to $375 per hour to be charged by Torrance’s firm - Dickie, McCamey & Chilcote.

In another letter that was posted on the district site, Swigart confirmed last month that the new elementary school will not be ready to welcome students when they return to school Aug. 27.

The fact that about 800 students in grades K-6 instead will report to the existing century-old elementary school “clearly is a disappointment,” Swigart acknowledged.

Everything students and teachers need to start the academic year remains in place at the old school, she said, noting, “Teachers are in their same rooms, and they still have all their technology. Nothing was removed.”

Bus routes won’t change because the new and old schools are separated by just a few blocks on Ligonier Street.

In his monthly report to the school board, elementary construction site manager George Dickerson said contractors in recent weeks “got a tremendous amount of work done on the exterior of the building,” with roofing and masonry nearing completion.

But, he said, frequent rain has interfered with work on concrete surfaces. “We’ve been struggling with that,” he said. “Six yards of concrete in between the raindrops doesn’t get you going very fast.”

Inside the building, Dickerson said, the school kitchen is “about 100 percent complete”

Until recent days saw some relief, high humidity was a problem in the building, he said, noting it “affects a lot of things. Finishes weren’t drying as fast as they needed to.”

On Aug. 27, installation of flooring is expected to kick into high gear, Dickerson said. “The contractor is going to hit that rather aggressively and get us moving,” he said.

The district is preparing for the flooring work by switching to a different adhesive that can be used on concrete surfaces with a higher moisture content, Swigart said.

On Tuesday, the school board also will consider four contract change orders that will add more than $91,000 to the roughly $24.8 million cost of the elementary project.

Balancing cumulative contract additions against deductions, Dickerson said, leaves the district with a net savings of at least $15,000 on the project.

Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, jhimler@tribweb.com or via Twitter @jhimler_news.

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