Although the design phase for an addition at Oakdale Middle School is still underway, parents and staff are already preparing for the expected impact of construction.
The middle school will be getting a new wing on the left side of the building to help ease current capacity issues. According to Sept. 30 enrollment data, the school is 169 students above its state-rated capacity. The new wing is expected to add 300 seats.
“We are starting an exciting project at Oakdale in that we are getting some space,” Mita Badshah, principal of Oakdale Middle, said at the start of a meeting Wednesday evening with parents, staff and other community members.
Representatives from Smolen Emr Ilkovitch Architects, the design company, and Keller Construction Management discussed schematics and how construction activity would affect the school.
The project is slated to begin in June and be completed by August 2021. The addition is expected to cost $13 million, according to the fiscal 2020 capital budget.
One of the biggest changes those who visit Oakdale Middle will see starting in June is the loss of the far-left section of the parking lot, which will be given to construction crews.
The entire job site will have a fence around it and there will be a 10-foot-high wall in the back to block the construction from the portable classrooms on the school’s lot.
David Tremblay, project director of Keller Construction, said his team is working with Badshah to determine which classes could be held in the portable classrooms during construction.
The biggest concern, however, and one that was brought up by many audience members, is security.
“It’s very important for us to completely isolate ourselves from the existing school and that’s from years of experience of our company doing school sites,” Tremblay said.
He assured parents that there would be no access points through which students will be able to access the job site, and each construction worker will have proper authorization and adequate identification.
One audience member asked what the hours of operation will be. Tremblay said workers will be on the job site Monday through Saturday and would arrive each day beginning around 5:30 a.m. Work would not begin until 7 a.m.
He also said they have made efforts to ensure no deliveries or other construction vehicles are out on Oakdale School Road, which runs parallel to the school and is the only point of access at school arrival and dismissal times.
Hebba Hassanein, who has children enrolled at Oakdale Middle and Elementary schools, asked Tremblay if their teams had considered the impact the project would have on Oakdale Elementary’s arrival and dismissal times. The elementary school is less than half a mile up the road.
“That’s a very good point, and I think our team needs to get together and figure that out,” Tremblay said. “We will make sure to miss those windows or have our stuff come in the early morning or late afternoon.”
Hassanein also asked if August 2021 is a hard deadline on the project and if Keller Construction will suffer any penalties should the work not be completed on time.
Tremblay said he was unable to speak to specific penalties but assured the audience that the project would be completed on schedule.
“The biggest penalty we would have is our company and team’s reputation,” Tremblay said. “In our 60 years, we’ve never finished schools late. ... We know that those kids need to be in school and in those seats.”
Badshah also said she is confident that the project would be completed by August 2021.
“I feel really very good about the team. ... They’re always thinking about what’s going to happen with the students. I’m already impressed with how much work and pre-planning has already gone on.”
Kristin Airey, registrar for Oakdale Middle, said while she is glad the school is getting an addition, she is still concerned about growing enrollment.
“My concern ... is those 300 brand-new apartments that went up in front of [Oakdale] High School,” Airey said.
She asked during the presentation if there was any talk of adding a level, but according to Ran Ilkovitch, president of Smolen Emr Ilkovitch Architects, at this time, the Board of Education has set a limit on what the size of a middle school in the county can be. The new wing would put Oakdale Middle close to that limit.
As construction begins and continues for the next year and a half, parents and community members will be able to stay informed on the project’s progress through a new webpage that will be set up as well as FindOutFirst emails, which Tremblay said would be sent regularly to provide news and updates.