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District makes plans in case school not ready

| Sunday, July 28, 2002

Plum School District officials are considering options in the event the senior high school is not ready to open for the start of classes next month.

Officials are quick to point out, though, that they are sending a clear message to contractors working on the $43 million construction and renovation project — get the work done on time.

"Our intent is to put as much pressure on the contractors to get (the high school) open on time or as close as possible," Plum School Board Vice President Gary Horner said during a meeting of the board's properties and supplies committee last week.

The most drastic scenario, according to Plum Assistant Superintendent Don Teti, would include "double shifting the junior high" meaning the junior high students would attend classes at A.E. Oblock Junior High School on Presque Isle Drive during the first part of the day and high school students would attend classes during the second part of the day.

No decisions have been made at this point, district officials emphasized.

The revelations about the options angered Plum School Board member Jeff Matthews who said Friday he didn't know anything about the alternatives under study until he attended last week's committee meeting.

Aug. 15 has been designated as the "substantial completion date" for the current phase of the project, Horner said.

Officials from the state Department of Labor and Industry then will inspect the site.

The Plum School Board, working with Foreman Management and Construction Co., insisted that contract language be placed in all agreements for the high school project requiring contractors to bring on additional staff, if necessary, to meet the deadline.

The first day of classes is scheduled for Aug. 28.

Officials with the Foreman group told administrators and board members the project is on target for the Aug. 15 completion.

Work at the high school includes a 64-foot-high addition to house a new gym and auditorium. The gymnasium has been completed. The current gym will be expanded and remain a gym. The auditorium will be converted into a high-tech library.

Work began in March 2001. The entire project at the high school is expected to be completed in August 2003.

Last year, the start of classes for grades nine through 12 at the high school was delayed two days because of construction-related cleanup.

Teti during last week's meeting, which was attended by a majority of school board members, outlined the contingency plans.

Teti said the best case scenario is that the high school will be ready to open Aug. 26. The next day, Aug. 27, is a scheduled clerical day for teachers. Classes would start Aug. 28.

The second scenario, Teti said, would be a five-day delay in the start of classes for high school students. Classes for the high school students would begin Sept. 6. Missed days would be made up during the school year, Teti said.

The third scenario would have the high school opening for students Sept. 16. From Aug. 29 through Sept. 13, administrators have proposed double shifts at the junior high school.

Teti said the schedule would work as follows: seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders would attend A.E. Oblock Junior High School from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.; 10th-, 11th- and 12th-graders would attend classes from 2 to 7:30 p.m. at the junior high school.

Plum Superintendent George Cooke said the administrators decided it made more sense to have the junior high students attend classes in the first part of the day "to let the younger students get home earlier."

Teti said students would have seven, 35-minute periods. The district's breakfast program would be in effect. Lunch would be served to the junior high students, and dinner would be served to the high school students.

Also, several high school teachers would work the early schedules to accommodate the ninth-graders who, though high school students, would be in the building on the early schedule with the junior high students.

"The thing we gain (with the double shift schedule) is that the kids are in school, and we get 990 clock hours (of instruction time, which is required by the state)," Teti said.

Under the double shift scenario, Teti said, high school students would begin classes in the senior high building Sept. 17.

In all three proposed scenarios, Plum pupils in grades kindergarten through six will remain in their respective buildings and on their regular schedules, Teti said.

Matthews said Friday he is upset he didn't know about the options until the committee meeting.

"I am outraged that I was not made aware of any of this until the public meeting I happened to walk into," he said.

Matthews left last week's committee meeting after expressing his dismay at not receiving details beforehand.

In particular, Matthews said Friday he doesn't understand why there was no board discussion during a closed personnel session which occurred the night before the committee meeting.

"I wish I would have been given the courtesy as a board member to be involved in a discussion of that magnitude," Matthews said Friday.

Before Matthews left the meeting, Cooke told him the plan was only put together Tuesday, the day before the committee meeting.

Cooke said he told board President Diana Tresco and Vice President Gary Horner that the administration was working on contingency plans.

Tresco said she didn't see the actual plan until the committee meeting.

Matthews said he has concerns about the double shift plan. In particular, Matthews said the plan may prove to be a hardship for families who rely on a high school child to baby-sit a younger child.

Board member Barbara Krause commended the administration for recognizing the need for contingency plans.

"I would be upset if they didn't come up with an alternative plan," Krause said. "No one is being criticized for putting a plan together."

Regina Schmiedel, president of the Plum Senior High School Parent Teacher Student Association, said Friday she hopes to learn more about the contingency plans Monday during a meeting with Pam Kinzler, high school principal.

"The safety of the children has to come first," said Schmiedel, whose son, Jason, will be a junior."

Schmiedel said at first glance, the only problem she sees with the double shift schedule would occur for high school students who play sports.

Cooke said district officials hope to be prepared to announce a decision at the Aug. 20 school board meeting.

"Our goal is to come here on the 20th and say we are ready (to open the building for classes) on the 28," said Charles Coltharp, project architect for Foreman Architects and Engineers.

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