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Mena School District Coping with Project Delays

BY LEANN DILBECK –

Two major projects for the Mena School system have experienced some delays. The District had hoped to initiate work for the $8 million renovation/expansion to the Louise Durham Elementary School as soon as school was dismissed for summer break and had opened the process for bids, but as Superintendent Benny Weston reported to his board during their June meeting, before the bids could be approved by the board, approval was needed from the state’s fire marshal, Major Lindsey Williams. Since that June meeting, that approval has been received.

A subsequent construction consultation meeting was held on Monday, June 26. The

The District has secured the services of CR Crawford Construction from Fayetteville, Ark. as the Construction Manager for the project. The site package has been awarded to Silco Construction of Waldron, Ark. and part of the electrical package has been awarded to Aleshire Electric in Mena. The remaining contractors must be approved by the Mena School Board before being released.

A $2.4 million ‘systems replacement’ is part of the renovation portion of the project. It is part of a “Warm, Safe, Dry” Partnership. Mena Public Schools will be responsible for only half of that cost, $1.2 million, because the district seized the opportunity to secure a matching grant from the Arkansas Division of Public School Academic Facilities and Transportation, which will pay the remaining $1.2 million. Mena’s portion will come from their building fund. A completed deadline of April 2018 is required for the grant. “This will include plumbing, electrical, HVAC, windows, roof, ceiling… everything that has an end of life system will be replaced. That part will come first. Those trades will go to work on the inside of the building immediately (upon bids being officially approved), Weston explained. “We will have it tied up by the first of August…hopefully.  It’s going to be a two or three phase project but it’ll be continual. When the plumbing is done, it will be done for the existing building as well as the ability to add on for the new part. The project is not going to stop when school starts. It’s going to continue on. But our goal was… which we’re not sure we’re going to meet it at 100%, but the goal was to have all of the stuff in the existing building complete but since we’ve been held up a little bit with the fire marshal, we’re not completely on schedule with that. But we do have a plan worked out in that case so that all of the kids are safe and it’s not disruptive to the environment,” Weston said reassuringly.

Dirt work for the project began Monday, June 26. Weston explained that during a pre-construction meeting held on Monday, June 19, all of the subs that have been awarded bids were more than ready to begin work on the project that has a very tight time deadline. “They were chomping at the bits ready to get going. We told them in our first pre-construction meeting [in May] that we needed a fully functional building available to us by the first of August.”

The current renderings of the proposed project show a new exterior design that will match closely with Mena High School, keeping the same color schemes and large façade. According to Weston, approximately 16,000 square feet will be added to Louise Durham, which was originally built in 1954.

The interior of Louise Durham will also change with the proposed addition of approximately 14 classrooms, a new office area, and a large bathroom being built near the existing front entrance. The addition will see an end to modular units now in use and all students will be housed in the main building that will accommodate up to 600 students. Student drop-off and pick-up areas will change slightly when the project is completed.

Although there are no official tornado shelters on campus at Louise Durham, Weston explained that for younger students, hardened halls are implemented for safety. The new addition will feature those types of walls and will serve as the gathering place in the case of threatening weather.

The second project experiencing delays is the construction of North Morgan Street that was also proposed to be completed by August. Demolition of the house/office at the proposed intersection with Hwy 71 has been removed, but further work has been halted as both the City of Mena and the District were notified by the Arkansas Highway Commission of a very steep increase in construction costs and fees since the project was originally proposed in 2012.  Currently, both the City and the District are awaiting proposed cost savings from the Highway Commission.

Also, during the Mena School Board June meeting, the board approved the new hires of the following: Daniel Jason Hendrix for Mechanic Assistant to replace Jim Pack; Nina Schreiner as a paraprofessional at Holly Harshman, replacing Allison Shelley; Chad Simpson as teacher/coach, replacing Trent Wilson; Kennedy McCormick for new position in 3rd grade at Holly Harshman; Heather Goss as Secondary Special Ed at Mena High School, replacing Shane Karen Sexton; Cynthia Standridge as Secondary Special Ed, replacing Shane Sexton; Alyssa Hostetler as a paraprofessional at Mena High School, replacing Nona Davis who has retired; Shawna Powell as a paraprofessional at Holly Harshman, replacing Laura Bowling; Kenneth Henry as a bus driver, replacing Dawn Stoeckinger; and Hope Valdovinos as the Holly Harshman LPN, replacing Norma Foster.

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