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Schools get summer construction makeovers

During the school year, the halls and classrooms are filled with students and teachers. But during the summer, many schools are instead packed with construction workers.

"The heavy lifting occurs during the summer," Howard County school construction director Bruce Gist said. "I just wish I had more than a nine-week summer."

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The Howard County Public School System has used the summer of 2012 to work on eight major construction projects. Schools open on Monday, Aug. 27.

One of the projects is a nearly 13,000-square-foot addition to Phelps Luck Elementary School in Columbia. The project, which also includes renovation work, is budgeted at nearly $20 million, according to the school system's capital budget.

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The new sections of the building — administrative offices in the front and classrooms in the back — and some renovations are scheduled to be complete by Aug. 20, according to project manager Clarence Felder, of J. Vinton Schafer & Sons Inc., the construction firm hired to build the addition and complete the renovations.

However, the construction crew will continue renovations through December on the east side of the building, which will be blocked off to students.

The majority of roughly 63,000 square feet of existing space will be renovated in some way, Felder said. For example, all the classrooms are being equipped with state-of-the-art projection systems and the flooring and lighting were replaced in the cafeteria, which also functions as an auditorium.

The addition to the front of the building will create a larger reception and office space for administrators with sensors that turn off the lights when people have been out of the room for 30 minutes. Principal Sean Martin will have a more spacious office with windows.

The light sensors are one of the many elements that will help make the school a LEED-certified building. Another element is the faculty bathroom that will have a shower for employees who walk or bike to work.

The most costly environmental feature added to the school is the geothermal heating and cooling system, a pump system that uses the constant temperature in the ground to draw heat in cooler months and dump heat in warmer months. It cost $757,000 to dig the 120 wells, each 500 feet deep, behind the school that support the system, according to Felder.

When Phelps Luck students return to school, they will find a lot of new space, including 15 classrooms, two music rooms, two computer rooms and four student bathrooms.

New elementary school

Usually all of the construction projects crews work on during the summer are fully or partially complete in time for students and teachers to return to the buildings. But this summer, one project will continue through the school year, with no teachers or students able to set foot on the grounds until this time next year.

The school system is building a new elementary school on a roughly 8-acre site on Ducketts Lane in Elkridge. The total cost of the project is budgeted at just under $31 million, according to the school system's capital budget.

Construction work began in late July and will continue through next summer in time for the school to open for the 2013 school year.

Project construction superintendent Steve Shoemaker, of Dustin Construction, the company hired to build the school, said a crew of about 75 tradesmen are currently conducting site work, installing utilities and laying the foundation for the school. That's about a two-month process, he said, after which the tradesmen will start erecting steel supports for the two-story building.

The early stages of project involve excavators, dozers, rollers, backhoes "and a whole lot of manpower," Shoemaker said.

The state-of-the-art architecturally designed school will be about 100,000 square feet. Recycled materials will be used throughout the building process to help meet requirements for its LEED certification, Shoemaker said.

Other major projects construction crews worked on this summer include:

• Atholton High School, Columbia — Construction on the seven-phase project, a top-to-bottom modernization and renovation of the 206,000-square-foot school, started in May and is scheduled to be complete in August of 2015. The first phase, which is scheduled to be complete by the end of March 2013, includes 12 new classrooms, four computer labs, a fine arts wing and a geothermal heating and cooling system. Temporary classrooms will be used at the school throughout the construction process. When the project is complete the school will be roughly 250,000 square feet.

• Bollman Bridge Elementary School, Jessup — More than two-thirds of the 15-phase project will be complete before the start of the school year. The remainder is expected to be complete in August 2013. The project includes major renovations, a recreation area, new art and music rooms and a 100-seat classroom addition.

• Gorman Crossing Elementary School, North Laurel — Work on the project, which includes nine new classrooms, new music and art rooms and an expanded cafeteria, began in July and is expected to conclude in August 2013.

• Stevens Forest Elementary School, Columbia — Renovations to the gym and the art and music rooms will be complete in time for the start of school. Well drilling for the geothermal heating and cooling system is nearly complete and construction of additional classrooms are underway. The project is scheduled to be complete in August 2013.

• Thunder Hill Elementary School, Columbia — The top-to-bottom renovation and addition of four classrooms and a new administrative suite is mostly finished, with minor repairs continuing into the start of the school year.

• Triadelphia Ridge/Folly Quarter Wastewater Treatment Plant, Ellicott City — The new treatment plant for Triadelphia Ridge Elementary and Folly Quarter Middle is expected to be complete by the end of the year.

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