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Classroom Wing Nearing Completion
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer
2019-04-24

            Four months before its scheduled opening, Upper Perkiomen's new middle school is taking shape. Inside the facility in Upper Hanover, students will experience wide hallways, expansive stairways, heavy doses of natural light and views of the

Green Lane Reservoir. Outside, a circular bus loop and a similarly shaped parent drop off circle for students have been constructed near an entrance off Montgomery Avenue.

            Over the last eight months, the project appears to have made up a 22-day schedule deficit created by inclement weather and a Dec. 1, 2017 vote by the Upper Perkiomen School Board to cancel it. The school remains on track to be completed in time for the start of the 2019-20 school year, according to Nicole Gum, the district's communications specialist. The facility, located at 901 Montgomery Ave., should be able to function as intended even if a few punch list items need to be completed on Sept. 3, the first day of school in the district, according to John Sheeran, the district's Director of Facilities & Operations.

            "I would say the school is pretty close to being finished on schedule," said Sheeran, who is retiring at the end of the current school year.

            Amid the dust, dirt, exposed and hanging wires, and scaffolding stored inside stairways, work in the three-story classroom building and connected administrative wing is progressing. According to Sheeran, construction of the top floor – which will house sixth grade students – is 80 percent complete. He identified the second floor, for seventh graders, as also 80 percent complete and the bottom floor, for seventh graders, as 75 percent complete. Gum suggested that all of the remaining work in the classroom wing – which includes cleanup, floor implementation and installation of lockers – could be finished in six to eight weeks.

            Workers sealed the classroom portion of the school – which features white and gray colored walls – to the elements in October, according to Sheeran. He said the site and roofing work, as well as the installation of terrazzo floors is ahead of schedule. HVAC work has commenced and the remaining masonry work remains on schedule, according to the administrator. The implementation of the fire alarm system is behind schedule, due to the need to coordinate with other systems,

            A typical classroom, measuring 29 feet, nine inches by 26 feet, eight inches and built to accommodate 25 students, includes large white boards on the front and back walls. Each classroom has wood cabinets with a natural finish, as well as hanging lights with LED bulbs. Sheeran called that function "the gift that keeps on giving." A third floor science classroom features sinks around the outside walls of the building on three sides.

            Student stairways between the floors feature unusually wide staircases and landing areas. Hallways that measure 10 feet wide will better accommodate students. The current middle school utilizes hallways are narrower by two to four feet.

            The classroom wing will also feature four multi-purpose areas. The spaces will allow for community interaction, according to Gum. Carpet will be installed in the library and administration office.

            The school will include new furniture. On April 11, the school board unanimously approved two separate action items to spend more than $903,000 to furnish the facility. The district will pay Corbett Inc., a Norristown company, $815,254.25 to purchase new furniture. Corporate Environments, with a showroom in Bethlehem, will be paid $88,319.53 for the purchase and installation of furniture, according to the meeting agenda. 

            "It's a 200,000 square foot building," Member Melanie Cunningham said during the meeting. "We're going to need a lot of furniture."

            The district budgeted $1.4 million for technology and furniture at the new school, according to Business Administrator Sandra Kassel. She said the total might exceed that amount by $100,000.

            "It's going to come in really close," Kassel said during the meeting.

            District officials considered their furniture options with Corbett for approximately a year, according to Assistant Superintendent Andrea Farina. She said the company laid out its options in "good, better and best." Farina explained, in response to a question from Cunningham, that Corbett offered chairs that cost $100, $150 and $300. According to the administrator, the district settled on the better option. "We wanted the best option, but we tried to be reasonable," Farina said.

            Visitors will be forced to contend with an enhanced security system. According to Sheeran, guests will enter a secure vestibule and be screened by office staff through a bank type opening. Accepted visitors will be admitted to the main office, to meet with a staff member or to be escorted to their destination.

            The other side of the building is 50 to 60 percent complete, according to Sheeran. He said the construction of two gymnasiums, a music room, auditorium, cafeteria, library and industrial arts facility started after the classroom portion.

            All of those areas have walls and doors. The cafeteria is a current point of emphasis, which is a pretty good sign, according to Sheeran. He said the work above the ceiling has already been completed.

            During normal business hours, the parking lot at the new school is usually packed. On any given day Sheeran estimates that between 80 and 100 workers employed by 50 contractors and subcontractors are working at the facility.

            A public open house will be scheduled later this year, according to Gum.


 

 

 

 

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