Decision Time Nears - from The Messenger
A decision will be made in the next few weeks on whether the new Duncombe Elementary School will open after Christmas break as originally planned or next school year, according to Travis Filloon, Fort Dodge Community School District director of buildings and grounds.
“We are still moving forward with high hopes of opening the new Duncombe as of the first of the year,” Filloon said. “We will see how things go in the course of the next few weeks and the district will be making a decision to be formally announced around Thanksgiving.”
Foutch Brothers LLC, of Kansas City, Missouri, owns the former Fair Oaks Middle School building where Duncombe students are currently housed.
The firm has agreed to allow the district to use that building through the end of the school year.
Filloon said a decision needs to be made before the end of the month to allow the public to plan.
“People will have some advance notice on whether they will need to plan to deliver their students to the new Duncombe Elementary or if it will remain in the current location through the remainder of this school year,” he said.
According to Filloon, the only two options laid out by the district are to move in over Christmas break or next school year.
“There is really no other time frame,” he said. “While this is a very short period of time, it’s the only time frame that gives us any length of time to make this move.”
The new building is two stories high and designed to house up to 450 students.
About 360 students currently attend Duncombe.
Filloon said the district would have about eight days to move over Christmas break.
“It would be a very short window of opportunity for the district to physically make the move,” he said. “With the break period over the winter break, it seems like it’s lengthy, but when you put the pencil to paper we as a school only have employees that are only working two days over that entire break period.”
Students will be in school through Dec. 22.
“The plan would be to have students in classrooms in the existing Duncombe through the 22nd,” he said.
Woodruff Construction, LLC, of Fort Dodge, is the general contractor for Duncombe.
Filloon said the company has assured the district that the school remains on schedule.
But he said weather is still a major factor.
“The sad news is even if we can’t make this deadline, as much as our general contractor continues to reinforce the fact that they believe we will be in and they have no reason to doubt it and they are going to do everything they can to ensure that’s going to happen,” he said. “But they leave themselves an out by saying within factors they can’t control such as the weather or they can’t allow for a delay in delivery.”
Conditions in the next couple weeks will be critical.
“A lot of the concrete work would get delayed and all the landscaping if it gets really wet,” he said. “If we were to get a rainstorm over the course of the next week. If we get rain and a hard freeze, that’s the kind of thing that puts a damper, literally, a damper on being able to work in the dirt when it’s all mud and they have to dig in the dirt to set materials and prep forms for concrete.”
Filloon said additional precautions have to be taken during freezing temperatures.
“If the concrete were to get delayed two to three weeks, we are that much further into the season where the cold weather is more imminent,” he said. “When it’s getting down below 32 they are supposed to blanket that concrete. If it gets cold on the surface too quickly, it will freeze the water in the concrete and cause it not to bond properly.”
Storms in other parts of the country could also impact the timeline, he said.
“If weather or a storm came in and stuff gets delayed two weeks or a week or a hurricane like earlier in the season — things get delayed when that occurs,” he said. “We don’t have an extra week in the process.”
The expectation is for the building to be completely finished within about a month, he said.
“The challenge is at one point do we say it’s too late?” he said. “We have to make a call early enough to let the public know and for our school district staff to know how to plan their holiday vacation time, as well as ensure that we have a building that’s going to be available for us that’s completely ready for us to occupy it and use it in a proper manner.”
Hooking up computers and moving in new furniture are two of the major components to the move.
“The technology department needs to put in place and set up all the computers that will be used by the teachers,” he said. “All the furniture needs to be put in place, because it will have all new furniture.”
About $580,000 worth of indoor furniture was secured by the district within the past month, he said.
The furniture includes cafeteria tables, classroom furniture, desks, chairs, teacher desks, easels, special equipment for art, and seating in an open lounge area called the flexible learning area.
The district used a purchasing agreement through the Iowa Department of Education to secure the furniture.
“There is a purchasing agreement used for educational equipment and furniture in the state of Iowa,” Filloon said. “Thus we don’t bid out the furniture as a separate item because we know we are getting it at a price that is as good if not better than other dealers would be able to provide.”
He said the furniture is set to arrive the first week of December.
Most of the equipment from the current Duncombe will not be moved to the new school.
“Realistically it will be a very small amount that will be brought over,” he said. “There’s a few specialty items, unique to special needs programs or recently purchased items that would be no need to discard those. A lot of the desks, furniture, book shelves, and book cases. A lot of that is built in and has been purchased under the additional furniture contract.”
The heating system for the new school is scheduled to be up and running in about a week, according to Filloon.
“As soon as that is done they will be able to keep the temperatures in the building at a safe temperature to finish some of the flooring aspect that require temperatures to be maintained within a suitable range to meet the manufacturer’s warranty,” he said.
New playground equipment has also been installed on the southeast side of the school.
The playground equipment has an added safety feature surrounding it. A material similar to artificial grass turf used at Dodger Stadium serves as carpet underneath the equipment. The material is called safe surfacing.
An area separate from the playground has an asphalt basketball court with three adjustable basketball hoops.
Entryways off of Sixth Avenue North and Seventh Avenue North are also anticipated to conclude by the end of the week, Filloon said.