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Duncombe Opening is Fall '18: Board Agrees to Delay Opening of New Elementary - from The Messenger

November 28, 2017

The opening of the new Duncombe Elementary School has been rescheduled for the start of next school year in the fall, the Fort Dodge Community School District board announced at its meeting Monday night.

The decision was made to allow a smoother transition into the new school, according to Superintendent Doug Van Zyl.

Originally the school was to open at the start of the new year following Christmas break.

“This gives our staff members an opportunity to transition their materials instead of trying to compress it into a short Christmas break,” Van Zyl said.

Potential boundary changes to the district’s elementary schools was a factor.

Work continues at the new Duncombe Elementary School Monday evening.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson 
Work continues at the new Duncombe Elementary School Monday evening.

“And then with the boundary adjustment, the board didn’t want to get some students in there and then say, ‘by the way you won’t be there next year,'” Van Zyl said. “It gives an opportunity for that process to also come to fruition and be completed rather than creating anxiety and stress for students and parents.”

The district has announced two public forums to discuss possible changes those boundaries. The dates are Dec. 4 from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Fort Dodge Middle School cafeteria and Dec. 20 from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the FDMS auditorium.

RSP and Associates is working with the district on the proposed changes.

“I agree with the idea that we postpone the move,” Stu Cochrane, FDCSD board president, said. “It makes sense that we all know what the boundaries are.”

He added, “I don’t know that we benefit in rushing that move right now. I don’t have an issue holding off.”

The board needed to make a decision in part to let Foutch Brothers LLC, of Kansas City, Missouri, know if the district would need to use the former Fair Oaks Middle School building to house Duncombe for the remainder of this school year.

In 2015, the firm agreed to let the school use Fair Oaks for a minimum of two years.

“We have to give them 30 days notice on whether we will remain in the building,” Van Zyl said. “If we were moving in on Jan. 2, we need to let them know by Dec. 2.”

Van Zyl said most teachers preferred to move only if the building was totally finished.

“Teachers were excited about the move,” he said. “They also said we are 100 percent ready to move if the building is 100 percent ready, but we also don’t want to have distractions of punch list items not being completed and people walking throughout the building.”

According to Van Zyl, the contractual obligations would remain the same for Woodruff Construction LLC, of Fort Dodge, the general contractor for the new school.

“Woodruff still has to meet those timelines,” he said. “They should still be moving ahead as though we are planning to move into the building.”

Any items that would still need to be completed could be a distraction for students, Van Zyl said.

“To have other people in the building who aren’t normally part of the building either completing things, testing things, or painting something, whatever it happens to be, can be distracting to the learning environment,” he said. “So staff members said if it’s 100 percent ready, we are ready to go, but if it’s not, we are 100 percent ready to stay where we are and keep doing the things we are doing.”

Matt Wagner, FDSCD board member, said it’s a difficult decision.

“Part of me thinks it’s a shame not to get into that building,” he said. “But then all the punch list things that had to be completed while we were at the middle school — that’s not a conducive educational environment.”

Substantial completion of the building is on track, according to David A. O’Brien, Woodruff West Region president.

“Overall we are in really great shape,” O’Brien said. “It was an aggressive construction schedule from the start. We are very proud of what we have done and our subcontractors to get us to the point where we can get the project wrapped up.”

The building is two stories high and designed to house up to 450 students.

O’Brien said by the end of this week a partial certificate of occupancy would be ready. A full certificate would be ready the following week, he said.

“Essentially all the equipment startups, heating, cooling, the boilers, and flushing the plumbing line — quite a bit of that has been completed as recently as mid-November,” he said. “All of that is scheduled to be done yet this week.”

“The emergency lighting, sprinklers, the sanitation is done,” he added. “All the flooring has been installed except for the flooring in the commons area, which has been intentionally left out due to traffic.”

He said by next week most of the items needing to be completed will be punch list items.

“We have the architect scheduled to come Friday to do his punch list and then we give our subcontractors seven days to get those items done,” he said.

O’Brien said those items would mostly include paint touch-ups.

“As far as getting the punch list items wrapped up, it’s pretty straight-forward,” he said.

The final completion for the project contractually is Dec. 15.

“We feel we have the district in great shape as far as having the building physically done and ready to deliver to them on time,” he said.

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