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Stevens Remodel Picks Up Pace

Electrician John Noyes of Wayne J. Griffin Electric Inc. works on what was the weight room at Stevens High School in Claremont on Nov. 20, 2013.  Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

Electrician John Noyes of Wayne J. Griffin Electric Inc. works on what was the weight room at Stevens High School in Claremont on Nov. 20, 2013. Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

Claremont — Interior demolition at Stevens High School on a $12.6 million renovation project will kick into high gear in early December, project superintendent Bobby Allen said last week.

With classes in session, the renovation is being done in phases over the next 14 months, starting with the basement area where empty classrooms and conference rooms are being renovated for regular education and programs such as course competency recovery, in-school suspension and professional development.

“We can’t take this much space (the entire school) out of commission (all at once) with kids in school,” said Stevens Principal Frank Sprague, explaining the reason for doing the project in phases. “The goal has been to keep the school safe and usable while kids are in school.”

The next phase, which will include new seats in the auditorium, is scheduled to begin in early February and subsequent phases in early spring and summer with a completion date of the entire project targeted for Dec. 31, 2014.

The school district received its demolition permit from the city on Nov. 15, and on Wednesday, workers with EnviroVantage of Epping, N.H., began preparations for demolition. The company is doing both demolition and abatement of hazardous material. Combining the work saved between $300,000 and $400,000, according to the Stevens Renovation Committee.

“Today we are locating, cutting, capping and marking all utilities,” Allen said at the school on Wednesday. “We will then begin with the architectural and abatement (of hazardous materials) demolition after Thanksgiving.”

Throughout the basement, which for the uninitiated seems a little like a labyrinth, walls, wiring and pipes are spray painted different colors to indicate whether the material should be removed, left alone or is hazardous.

Allen, with general contractor Trumbull Nelson, said the company has placed a priority on student and staff safety and has scheduled the work to minimize the impact on classes.

“As we start the abatement demolition phase, we will be doing it during the second shift (3 p.m. to 11) so as not to put the kids at risk,” Allen said. “We are working hard to minimize risk and eliminate exposure (to hazardous materials such as asbestos) to kids. We are also doing indoor air quality testing.”

The refurbishing of the basement area is expected to be substantially complete by the end of January.

“For the most part new doors, walls and ceilings should be in place,” Allen said, adding that access to utilities will be necessary when other phases are done so the basement won’t be 100 percent finished.

Other work in this phase includes construction of a new entrance off the gymnasium where the weight room used to be and a new entrance from Summer Street. A third entrance near the renovated band room is being closed off.

Allen said the unique challenge presented by the Stevens project has to do with the additions and renovations to the high school building, since the first part was constructed in the 1860s. Major work was done in 1915, 1929, 1963 and 1991.

“It is really six separate buildings,” he said, noting the changes in construction material and methods and building codes over the last 145 years.

Sprague estimates that 70 percent of the building was constructed in 1929, which is when the gymnasium and auditorium were added. He complimented Allen for his thorough investigation of the building’s interior to learn how things everything was constructed and where all the pipes and wires ran.

“Bobby has crawled in places that only mice have been the last 50 years,” Sprague said.

Also being renovated in this phase is the former administrators’ office and an adjacent classroom on the first floor. Part of a wall between the two spaces will be demolished and the new area will be home to the family and consumer science class.

The renovation bond was approved by voters last March. The work will include new mechanical, plumbing and electrical work and updated code work to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

A new bus loop and drop off area was constructed this summer and reconstruction of the parking area on the eastern side of the building is almost complete.

Subsequent phases will include renovation of classrooms on the second and third floor, a refurbished and enlarged cafeteria and kitchen area and renovated locker rooms.

The school district is still hoping to secure financing to install energy-saving equipment in the schools, including a wood pellet/propane boiler at Stevens estimated to cost $400,000.

The $3.6 million project is hung up on the district unable to get a 20-year loan. Three lending institutions have shown interest but the district has not negotiated a financing package that will result in the guaranteed savings in energy costs as projected by the company doing the work, Johnson Controls.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at ogrady56@yahoo.com.