• 72°

USC school ready for winter

WELLS — Winter may be settling in, but that’s OK with the project managers overseeing the construction of the new United South Central school.

Project superintendent Bill Born said about 50 percent of the concrete has been poured, 95 percent of the roofing is completed and all the exterior windows are installed.

USC superintendent Jerry Jensen said along with the strides made on the actual building, the grounds are starting to take shape, too.

The exterior work on the new United South Central school is in good standing for winter. --Brandi Hagen/Albert Lea Tribune

The exterior work on the new United South Central school is in good standing for winter. –Brandi Hagen/Albert Lea Tribune

“The parking lot is ready for blacktop,” Jensen said. “And the tennis courts and track have been shaped up pretty good.”

Project manager Justin Webster, who along with Born works for Kraus-Anderson Construction, said that everything underground is 100 percent complete.

All three men happily said that the $28.6 million project was ready for the winter months.

Long periods of rain last spring and summer set the project back a little, but Born said they have caught up.

“Half the building is further ahead of schedule than planned,” Born said. “And due to the rain, there is a portion of the building that is pretty close to being back on schedule. We actually have an opportunity of gaining more days.”

Jensen said the rain came at a bad time because they delayed the earth work that needed to be done near the beginning of the project. He said the site was like a lake at times.

A wet month of September also meant everybody who was working on the project was scrambling to beat the frost, according to Webster.

“All in all, it would have been nice to have two more nice days to finish out some more asphalt,” Webster said. “But I wouldn’t go much further than a couple days.”

The men said they were still shooting for the start of the 2014-15 school year for an opening date and were confident the project would be done by then.

It is still unknown whether or not there will be a bus garage on site. The status of the garage was uncertain when the plans to the building was expanded to include six more classrooms.

“The board basically put (the six classrooms) on the table and said we think this is a higher priority right now – to get these classrooms so we’re sure we have enough room for a little bit of growth,” Jensen said. “We’ll have to wait until the end of the project to see whether or not there’s funds to go ahead with the bus garage.”

The extra classrooms will cost a little more than $622,000 and will add 6,700 square feet to the building.

Everything is bid out for the new school, the only thing that is not 100 percent secured is the landscaping project.

Webster said the last pours of concrete will be made very shortly and after that the team will focus on finishing the interior. He said the entire building is currently heated.

“We’re well into the interior, actually,” Webster said. “Mechanical and electrical are putting all of their preliminary stuff in place right now.”

The Rebels’ athletics department will benefit from having more space at the new school. There will be a football stadium and track and field venue, baseball field and softball field. There will also be extra practice field space. The current school does not have baseball and softball facilities, they had been using city fields.

Jensen said still being able to use the city fields and the fields at the old high school will give some time to allow the turf at the new facilities to develop.

“We just want to make sure the turf here gets well established before we get to tearing it up,” he said.

The configuration of the football stadium is still up in the air as a college-style seating structure was rejected by the school board. Wells Concrete, who had made a $75,000 donation toward the school envisioned a structure on the east side of the field. The original plan called for seating on the west side.

The new school is being built on almost 67 acres on the south side of Wells on the western side of Minnesota Highway 22. It will sit between the intersection of 11th Avenue and Sixth Street. The capacity will be for 750 students. The district’s enrollment has an average of 600 students each year.