Stillwater News Press

September 28, 2013

Water leak, delays set back opening of new Will Rogers Elementary

By Mark Rountree
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — A second-floor water valve leak and construction delays have set back the opening of the new facility for Will Rogers Elementary School.

School officials were hoping to begin classes in the new school Monday, but an overnight water leak Sept. 20 damaged 10 classrooms, utility areas and storage rooms.

Crews have been busy replacing drywall after using dehumidifiers to dry out floors, walls, ceilings and cabinets.

“It was a pretty significant cleanup,” said John Anders, facilities director for the school district. “But cleanup has been completed. Now they are just replacing the Sheetrock.”

School officials now are shooting for Oct. 16 — one day prior to the start of fall break — for teachers to begin moving classroom materials into their new rooms.

Classes are now expected to start in the new school Oct. 21 for 525 Will Rogers students.

“Hopefully, we’ll get to move then. I’m optimistic but realistic,” said Kellee Brown, public information officer for the district. “There is still a lot to be done. When we get a little closer, we’ll determine if we are ready to move in.”

Anders said a water valve — a tiny 1⁄2 inch in diameter part — that serves a hand-washing sink in a room on the east end of the building on the second floor broke in the middle of the night and flooded several rooms. The water damage was not noticed until construction crews arrived on site at about 6:30 a.m. on Sept. 20.

“There’s always some hiccups that occur with a construction project, some bigger than others,” Anders said. “But they got on it quickly and resolved it quickly.”

Construction manager Gregg Bradshaw of Lambert Construction was assured by the restoration company that the water leak and repairs will not prevent teachers from moving classroom materials into their new rooms beginning Oct. 16.

Lambert Construction’s insurance company has authorized the company to complete the repairs to avoid delays for teachers moving into the new building over fall break.

After all costs are accumulated, the company’s insurer and the plumbing sub-contractor’s insurer will work out reimbursement costs.

“This is extremely rare,” Bradshaw said. “In 33 years of doing this, this is only the second time something like this has cropped up in the last two or three weeks of a project.”

Bradshaw said the newly installed walls will be painted next week.

In addition to the extra work now required because of the water leak, crews still need to complete the installation playground equipment, furniture and computers.

Furniture in the present school was supposed to begin being moved into the new school Sept. 16.

Teachers were to begin moving materials Sept. 23. But those plans were put on hold as a result of last-minute work yet to be done at the site and the water leak.

Monty Karns of OSU Long-Range Planning, which is consulting on the project, said approximately 120 workers are on the Will Rogers construction site.

Will Rogers Principal Cherron Ukpaka said students, parents and teachers are excited to move into the new building.

“The general consensus is that we want the building to be ready for us,” Ukpaka said. “No one is upset that we were delayed. When they say go, we are ready to go.”

She said teachers and staff have been flexible and supportive during the construction, dealing with fewer parking spaces, the loss of playground space and dealing with construction at the new building, which is as close as seven feet from the present school.

“We are committed to opening Will Rogers over fall break,” said Terry McCarty, assistant superintendent of operations in the district.

“There are many sub-contractors and vendors that play a role in getting us into the new building, but we are committed to getting into the new building for our teachers, students and community.”