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School renovation work well underway

Demolition of the old kitchen is nearly complete, the foundation for one of the new mechanical rooms is in place, and John Adams Middle School students have come to call their new dining area the “Cafenasium.” Story by Joe Buttweiler.|MASON CITY — Demolition of the old kitchen is nearly complete, the foundation for one of the new mechanical rooms is in place, and John Adams Middle School students have come to call their new dining area the “Cafenasium.”

Overall, the huge renovation project “seems to be going pretty smoothly,” said Steve Oudekerk of Holland Contracting. The Forest City-based company has been on site since September.

The kitchen demolition began a few weeks ago, leaving a gaping hole in the building and signaling to passersby that the renovation is well underway.

On the east side of the building, the foundation for one of two new mechanical buildings is in place. The other will be built in two months, Oudekerk said Wednesday. They will house new heating and air-conditioning equipment, said Todd Huff, supervisor of facilities for the Mason City Community School District.

“Everything is pretty much on schedule,” Huff said, with three or four projects of the multi-phase upgrade currently ongoing, bringing about 20 workers a day to the site.

Huff provided an outline of the phases:

Phase 1 is an electrical upgrade by Blazek Electric and is 65 to 75 percent complete. It involves “a total transplant” of electrical service, Huff said. “It will include a new transformer pad to serve the whole 7-12 (seventh- through 12-grade) complex.”

Phase 2 includes the kitchen demolition and the physical plant addition on the east. “It started in earnest Jan. 3,” Huff said. Prior to that, reusable kitchen equipment was removed.

The company handling the food service equipment removal and replacement, called Phase 2A, is Boelter Contract and Design. “Their first segment is complete. They will come back mid-summer,” Huff said. That work is expected to be done by mid-August.

As before, the kitchen will serve the middle and high schools. Each will have its own cafeteria.

There will also be a new corridor connecting the middle and high schools, making it easier for middle school students taking high school courses to get where they need to go. Previously they had to cut through the kitchen area, Huff said.

Phase 3 will involve remodeling/reconstruction of the dining and kitchen areas. “We’ll be putting together what we’re taking apart,” Huff said. The apparent low bidder for the project was Larson Contracting, with a bid of just under $3.6 million. If approved by the school board Monday, work will start Feb. 28, Huff said.

Phase 3B will be renovation of the main two-story middle school building, with new heating and cooling lines, windows, doors and inner-wall insulation. The bid opening for that project, which will likely eclipse $10 million, will be in March.

Phase 4 will be construction of a FEMA-approved safe room, to be located to the west of the kitchen area. A May bid opening is planned.

Phase 5 will involve an estimated $8 million to $9 million two-story renovation at the high school similar to that at the middle school. A January 2012 bid opening is anticipated.

And Phase 6 on the drawing board is improvements to the administration and healthcare areas of the complex; a new central entryway to the buildings; plus site improvements such as new parking and drop-off/pickup areas.

“We’re 20 percent through it and it’s exhaustive already,” Huff said of the project.

He said the students seem to be adjusting well. “They come and go to class just as they always have. They don’t really say much about it.”

Meals for students are being prepared in elementary schools. While senior high students are able to use their cafeteria, middle school students are having lunch in the gymnasium, leading some to christen it the “Cafenasium.”

Though the project is much bigger, it’s like remodeling a home, Huff said. “You might have to do dishes in the bathtub for a while, but when it’s all done it’s worth it. And I think everyone has that mindset.”

Originally it was planned that students would remain in the middle school during the renovation, but that has changed.

The former Madison Elementary School will house seventh-grade students next year, while eighth-graders will be in a 14-classroom annex that will be built on the high school campus.|

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