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Stevens High to Open Sept. 10; Renovations Delay Start of School Year

Claremont — The ongoing renovations at Stevens High School have forced the district to delay opening of the school for grades 9-12 until Wednesday, Sept. 10, two weeks later than originally scheduled.

School officials said several factors associated with the major overhaul led to the decision.

An air quality assessment, primarily on the third floor where demolition work was recently completed, raised some concerns, Dave Putnam, chairman of the school renovation committee, said Monday.

“We want to get that area buttoned up and eliminate the risk so we have a healthy, secure and safe environment for the staff and kids,” Putnam said. “(Delaying the start to the year) seemed like the logical approach.”

The third floor is part of the final phase of the project. The four classrooms in that wing on the south side of the school are the last rooms to be renovated, and Putnam said demolition and hazardous material abatement this summer took longer than expected.

“All of the demolition and abatement is done and now the full focus is on reconstruction,” Putnam said.

Putnam also said the extra time will allow the contractor to install more flooring and ceiling tiles, which will reduce the dust, finish the new science rooms on the third floor and more thoroughly clean the school.

Originally, Stevens was scheduled to begin classes Monday but about two weeks ago that date was pushed to Wednesday and then moved again.

SAU 6 Superintendent Middleton McGoodwin said in an email that teachers were in the high school preparing their classrooms on Monday but were told to leave “because they could not accomplish what they needed to because of the renovation work.”

Last week, during a tour of the building, project superintendent Bobby Allen, of contractor Trumbull Nelson, sounded hopeful that enough work could be completed and the building cleaned in time to open this Wednesday.

Opening the school when it was not in a condition for students to learn would not have made sense, School Board Chairman Richard Seaman said in an interview Monday evening.

He said the delay is not a complete surprise because of the overall scope of the project, with work being done in nearly every part of the building. The oldest part of the building dates to 1868 and there were major additions done in 1915 and 1929.

“There is no one to blame here,” Seaman said. “This is a big project. Everyone’s best expectations were for Wednesday, but we are not quite where we want to be. ... It was a hard decision but is absolutely the right decision so we can make sure the school is really ready.”

McGoodwin said in the coming weeks he will discuss options for making up the days with head of the teachers’ association and present them to the School Board.

Work inside the school on the $12.6 million renovation began last winter and is scheduled to be substantially complete by the end of December.

“This is a complex and complicated project but when it is done, we will have a beautifully restored building that is safe and clean,” Putnam said.

The renovation committee will hold its next meeting on Wednesday at 3 p.m. in the Sugar River Valley Technical Center.

The middle school will open on Wednesday as scheduled.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.