So Close

Final Stretch

Stephanie Myers-News-Herald

Even though rains earlier in the year hindered progress at the new Greenback School, contractor Merit Construction is still pushing for a January completion date.

Loudon County Director of Schools Jason Vance said he hopes students are in the new building "shortly after Christmas" break.

"If we run into problems, we could foresee extensions and things of that nature, but if we don't run into problems we are anticipating the beginning of the (calendar) year," Vance said.

"All along we've been thinking it would be sometime after Christmas break," he said. "Really, I don't know exactly when we will be finished, but if I were to anticipate at this point in time it would probably be sometime in January."

Merit Construction President and Project Manager Bruce Bosse expressed confidence in the January completion date. Merit Construction is also the contractor for the new Fort Loudoun Middle School.

"We are still hoping to be done in late December to where they can start school there in January. I think it's going to be fabulous. It looks fantastic," Bosse said. "We can't wait to see the reaction of the kids, parents and teachers and everybody who has been so long awaiting this great facility that is going to be turned over to them."

Expecting no delays

Though the new Greenback School has hit some road bumps with rain and unsuitable soil, Vance said he believes the school system will not face issues like FLMS, which Merit Construction hustled to finish before opening at the beginning of the school year.

The school sought temporary certificates of occupancy with some lingering interior issues, such as replacing uneven floor tiles, adding mechanical unit ducts, installing the gym bleachers, laying the gym floor and fixing the auditorium bleachers.

"Now they didn't run into the problems like some of the rock issues that Fort Loudoun did. They did have some unsuitable soil issues but they were very minimal as compared to the problems we had at Fort Loudoun Middle School, so really the main problems we had was the rain," Vance said of Greenback School. "That really has pushed us a little bit."

Construction at Greenback has moved mostly indoors with installing light fixtures, painting walls and working on the school's elevator shaft. Most of the sidewalks are in place, cabinets are being installed in classrooms and final grading and grass seeding will go on throughout this month, Bosse said.

"Twenty inches of rain this year is something you just can't turn your back on. The past several weeks have been good, but we do like to focus on the positive, I guess," he said. "So, yeah, like any construction project it has its challenges but I think we've worked through those.

"Most of the glass and the exterior windows are in, but we continue to work on that to get in those last few windows that will brighten up the outside of the building. On the inside — painting, flooring, finishing up mechanical and electrical systems, ceilings, all the life safety issues like fire alarms, fire sprinklers," Bosse said of current projects at the school.

Just under 150,000 square feet, the school sits on 27.9 acres adjacent to the current facility.

Vance said the option to start classes in the new building next school year is viable, but with excitement running rampant in the Greenback community, he anticipates transitioning this school year. About 650 students are enrolled this year at Greenback.

"If there are problems that would prohibit them from allowing them to turn the school over to us in January that is something we would certainly consider, but again I think people are excited about transitioning in the new school and we would like to as quickly as we could," Vance said.

When construction began in fall 2011, school officials had hoped the building would be completed this summer, Vance said, adding that a new school in Greenback has been long anticipated.

"The community has really fought hard for a new school for quite some time. ... It's just needed," he said. "When you walk through the school you can see there are some good parts to the school ... but on the flip side of that the majority of the school is run down and outdated and not necessarily what we believe (would) satisfy the needs of the students in regards to their educational needs."

Future goals

Vance hopes to address space issues at other county schools in the near future, specifically Loudon High School.

Four LHS classrooms are held in portables and some teachers "float" among classrooms. Vance said nine classrooms are currently held in portables at Greenback.

"I don't expect that we build a new high school as we did at Greenback, but we need to add some classrooms so we can get kids out of portables and we can get science labs for kids and give them opportunities to work on science, technology, engineering and math similar to the way Greenback and Lenoir City has," Vance said.

The school district is connecting Loudon Elementary School and the old Fort Loudoun Middle School to get younger students out of portable classrooms.

"After that I would like to consider a few different options at Highland Park. We haven't gotten that hammered out yet," Vance said. "... And after Highland Park or in addition to Highland Park (we're) just trying to consider what options we have at Eaton and North Middle schools in regards to traffic flow. I think there are a few different things we can do to make that better, but I would certainly need some outside help from an engineer that understands the design of traffic and that sort of thing to make that transition more smoothly over at the intersection of Highway 321 and 70."