July 27, 2005 The four burned-out classrooms at Addelita Cancryn Junior High School, destroyed last November, were bulldozed down to cement slabs on Monday. This is the first step in the long overdue rebuilding of the classrooms.
Although Gov. Charles W. Turnbull issued a proclamation declaring public exigency to authorize the purchase of supplies and to make contractual agreements for the cleanup and reconstruction of Cancryn classrooms early last November, it has taken eight months for the work to get under way.
Keith Richards, Turnbull's capital projects coordinator, said Wednesday, that even with Turnbull's edict, the process can be time-consuming. "Situations like this are surrounded by a series of issues. To move expeditiously, you need to know what the insurance proceeds were. The initial amount offered wasn't sufficient, so Property and Procurement had protracted negotiations to get everything they wanted, which they did."
And that was the first holdup. Richards continues, "There was the issue of negotiations with the contractors, making sure the government got a good deal. Once in place, it takes time for the contractor to get his insurance and bonds together, and it took a little more time than anticipated. The contractor is scheduled now to complete the work in record time."
Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards, in his role as acting governor in Turnbull's absence, held a meeting last week with the commissioners of Finance, Education, and Property and Procurement; Office of Management and Budget Director Ira Mills; Keith Richards; and acting Attorney General Kerry Drue to address the progress of the repairs for the junior high school.
Apex Construction began the work Monday, and the Lt. Governor said he had instructed the company to "proceed with a rigorous schedule, even if takes working day and night to complete repairs for the beginning of the 2005-2006 school year." (See "Cancryn Repairs to Begin as Early as Saturday".)
This remains to be seen. Louis Hughes, Education Department director of maintenance, was on the campus Monday. He pointed out that work had begun a sanitation company was cleaning the school, exterminators have been hired, light bulbs are being replaced and painting has begun.
Daniel Perez, a maintenance supervisor, said Monday that he had a crew of three on the job.
When asked if the classrooms would be ready for the beginning of school, Hughes deferred naming a time line, but strongly indicated he did not see how they could be.
Butch Hodge, Apex Construction vice president, said Tuesday, "We will do whatever we can to accelerate the work. We have a 120-day contract."
Cancryn's lot is not a happy one. Plans to move school to a better location have been in the works for years with no conclusion. It took a two-day walkout by teachers and students in January this year to get any attention at all to the school's critical problems.
The job action culminated in a meeting with parents, faculty and top administration officials where the school's stakeholders were told action would be taken on the more pressing situations, which included leaking roofs, rodent removal, reconstruction of the bridge overpass, improved telephone service, a public address system, getting crossing guards for the children since the overpass bridge is not usable, and setting a timetable for repair of the burned classrooms. (See "Parents, Teachers Demand Action at Cancryn".)
In addition to all those concerns, the school has been plagued with bomb scares and was evacuated twice earlier this year because of unidentified fumes.
At a July 16 Board of Education meeting, Education Commissioner Noreen Michaels said her department had adopted a paradigm of having maintenance done on schools all year round.
When asked about the status of capital projects being performed, Michaels admitted that the department wasn't as far along as she had hoped, but that they were "moving expeditiously to get things done." She said this included the rebuilding of classrooms recently damaged in a fire at Addelita Cancryn Junior High School.
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