Members of the Harford County Board of Education were told Monday that the $37 million Youth's Benefit Elementary School replacement project in Fallston is on schedule to be completed by the start of the 2017-18 school year and, so far, is within the project budget.
"The good news is, it's on budget and it's on schedule," said Chris Morton, supervisor of planning and construction for Harford County Public Schools, who briefed the board.
The project, managed by Dustin Construction Inc., of Ijamsville, involves building most of the new school, which will be a two-story building, in an area between the existing buildings, while students continue to attend class.
Once the new building has been completed, the old buildings will be torn down.
School system officials expect the new two-story building will be ready by June of 2016, and students in primary grades can move in for the 2016-2017 school year, according to HCPS spokesperson Jillian Lader.
Lader said Tuesday that the final phase of the project is scheduled to be completed by the fall of 2017. The final phase includes demolishing the intermediate classroom building, which houses students in third, fourth and fifth grade, building a parking lot in its place and completing additional site work.
The board had requested the update on Youth's Benefit during its July meeting, when its six new members – Rachel Gauthier, Jansen Robinson, Laura Runyeon, Alfred Williamson, Joseph Voskuhl and student representative Genae Hatcher – were sworn in.
"This was the first time we've ever been asked by the board to provide an update" part-way through a major construction project," Morton said.
Construction began last October on the 150,000 square-foot, two-story building that will replace the two existing classroom buildings on the site, one that serves students in kindergarten through second grade and the other students in third, fourth and fifth graders.
Construction on the new building, as well as the supporting infrastructure such as new wells, a septic system and wastewater treatment plant, is proceeding on schedule, according to Morton, who expects the new building will be open by June 2016.
"We will be connecting, in the fall, the primary building to the wastewater treatment plant to get it up and functioning and tested out prior to connecting the [new] two-story [building]," he said.
Once some children move into the two-story building, Morton said, "we knock down the primary, and then we continue to build across."
"When that's complete, we move up from the intermediate building and we tear that down and then we finish the balance of the site," he continued.
Morton listed the construction milestones that have been reached so far, such as the installation of new septic drain fields, a new sanitary line between the new building and the wastewater treatment plant, completed construction of a bus loop and driveways, the setting of door frames, ongoing roof work, preparing spaces for mechanical systems such as HVAC and electricity, coordination with BGE to install "primary electric service and exterior brick work on the gymnasium.
He said window frames should be installed starting in September.
"I really think they're doing an outstanding job," Morton said of the contractors. "It looks great; I think people will really like the workmanship and the look."
Lader noted that, while the new building will be connected to the on-site wastewater treatment plant, septic drain fields are still required by the Maryland Department of the Environment and the Harford County Health Department.
The treated waste water will be sent to the drain fields, she said.
Back to school
The Aug. 27 start of the new school year is rapidly approaching for HCPS students, and Morton noted a back-to-school night at Youth's Benefit is scheduled for next Monday, Aug. 24.
Morton said as many temporary parking spaces as possible have been installed on the site; however, he also noted that "parking this year will be a little challenging" with the ongoing construction.
He said the school system has arranged a shuttle service on the 24th to transport parents from parking areas to the school.
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"Hopefully people listen and utilize that for back-to-school night, because I know there's a lot of traffic that night," he said.
Lader said the shuttle service will be available for similar events "when the school determines it is necessary."
Following the meeting, board member Thomas Fitzpatrick said the update was helpful for new board members so they could learn more about "how the process works and what the issues we've been dealing with over the past couple of years have been, and to put things in context for them."
Gauthier agreed. "We want to see what's going on," she said.
Youth's Benefit parents and community leaders in Fallston have been pushing the school system, county and state for nearly 20 years to replace the aging school, which opened in 1953.
Runyeon, a former Youth's Benefit PTA president and longtime advocate for replacing the school, said she also was pleased to hear the update.
She said she has visited the construction site and the workers are "doing a great job."