For most school districts across the state, the shutdown related to COVID-19 has meant plenty of adjustments.
For the Milton School District, those adjustments come with a silver lining: an accelerated timeline for buildings receiving upgrades through the district’s $59.9 million referendum.
Both Consolidated Elementary School and Milton Middle School likely will be finished earlier than planned.
An accelerated timeline at the elementary school means the building will be fully functional in time for school in fall rather than the original target date of mid-November.
That is partly because workers can access the school sooner now that students and faculty are out of the building, said Stephen Schantz, director of buildings and grounds.
Consolidated is getting a secured entrance with the referendum money. Other schools will get more classrooms, expanded cafeterias and handicapped-accessible improvements, among other things.
“Before COVID-19, those projects at Consolidated and the middle school weren’t scheduled to start until school got out, so we were targeting like a June 8 start date,” Schantz said. “But with everything going on, we decided to take advantage where we could accelerate those construction schedules to be able to minimize the effect it had on the sites and try to save money.
“One of the biggest pieces that has helped speed up the construction process is that we don’t, construction-wise, have to coexist with the school day,” he said.
The accelerated schedule will save money, but it’s not yet clear how much. It also allows construction to occur during the peak months of April through November instead of during winter, Schantz said.
Construction will be underway at all six schools covered by the referendum as soon as excavation starts at the middle school. That was slated to start Wednesday, but rain delayed the work for a day or two.
The projects should stay on track as long as supplies stay in stock, Schantz said.
“To date, we haven’t seen any supplier or supply shortages,” he said. “That’s always a wild card that we can’t control, and that’s something we’re constantly keeping our eye on. That would be really the only potential delay that we could see is if we run into shortages with suppliers.”
While district staff and teachers wish students could be educated in person, an accelerated timeline for some referendum projects could be a light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel.
“All in all, I can’t speak highly enough for how everything is progressing,” Schantz said. “The unfortunate situation that COVID-19 is, at least we’re able to take advantage where we can so that when the students return, that they will come back to these projects moving along much further and faster to minimize the disruption that they’re going to cause and get them into their new spaces sooner.”