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Contractor Teaches Minnesota Schools $35M Trick

Sat February 19, 2000 - Midwest Edition
Dorinda Anderson

E & V Consultants and Construction Managers of Minneapolis has enlarged and renovated five schools of the Columbia Heights School District, located in a suburb of Minneapolis, MN.

The schools, built in the late 1950s and early 1960s, were in desperate need of mechanical updates, and updates for air and water standards. Technological updates were required for the district, and additional space was needed in the schools to increase programming, said Bob Hill, project manager with E & V. A $35-million bond issue was approved by the voters to cover the costs of the upgrades, kicking off the design stage in July 1997 by Setter, Leach and Lindstrom of Minneapolis.

The Columbia Heights School District itself is fairly small, with about 2,500 students in the five schools so this project is a big deal to the district, Hill said.

To help minimize the interruptions with classes and the students, Hill said they developed a phasing plan with the district.

All five schools needed to be brought up to code, which meant adding elevators, and all the bathrooms had to be reconfigured with upgrades to ensure handicapped accessibility. Accessibility was also required in areas like the music rooms that have multiple levels and stages.

The first portion of the project, which was to complete the three elementary schools, was completed November 1998. To renovate and add on to each elementary school cost the district about $2.2 million.

In addition to interior renovations, a new media center was added to each elementary school and multipurpose classrooms were added to two of the three schools, Closner said. Structural steel was used for the additions with brick and concrete block on the exteriors.

The inside of the buildings is typical interior masonry, plaster, glazed tile and drywall.

Work began in June 1999 on the middle school, and in April 1999 work began on the senior high school. Work on the $3.7-million, 13,230-square-meter (147,000 sq. ft.) middle school was completed by the spring. The 27,360-square-meter (304,000 sq. ft.) high school was completed by the start of school year. The construction cost for the high school was approximately $8.9 million.

The entire middle school was under renovation, with work including demolition of the existing media center in the center of the school and expanding and rebuilding in the same location, using a couple of adjacent classrooms for the expansion. Art rooms, science labs and

the administration area were remodeled using interior masonry, plaster, glazed tile and drywall.

Work on the senior high school was also substantial and included a 1,800-square-meter (20,000 sq. ft.) addition for programming space, for a new boardroom, for adult education and for preschool programs. The project also includes a new roof.

The high school is close to one of the elementary schools so with the addition on the high school, the two buildings almost connect, Hill said. This makes it possible for the two schools to share an air conditioning system, creating some flexible space for use during the summer, enabling the district to offer more programming, such as adult education.

The close proximity of the two schools also makes it possible for the district to eliminate one heating plant so there is only one mechanical room for the two schools, thus reducing some costs to the district, Hill said.

Since the high school is a larger building and the new addition was built on a side of the building where there is less student activity, more work was done while the students were in the building, Closner said, which meant a smaller portion of the work had to be done over the summer.

The high school auditorium will also be redone along with the art and science classrooms and the industrial arts area. A new media center will be added.

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