FARMINGTON — Heavy equipment and workers in hard hats are on the move everywhere at the new W. G. Mallett School building site on Middle Street with one focus — to get it ready for opening day on Aug. 31.
“The building is 98 percent complete, but there are still a few loose ends to take care,” said Christine Kendall, the project engineer for H.E. Callahan Construction Co. of Auburn.
She said it will be ready for teachers to go in to set up their classrooms and unpack the moving cartons that have been in storage all summer on Aug. 22.
And it will be done in time for an open house for prekindergarten and kindergartners and their families tentatively set for Aug. 29.
In the past few weeks, key Mt. Blue Regional School District support staff have been trained on how the new building functions, Kendall said.
The food service workers learned how to operate the kitchen equipment. Maintenance staff got instruction on how the high-tech heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system works.
And David Leavitt, the district's director of support services, including physical plant and transportation, got a hands-on lesson on how the occupancy sensors that automatically turn lights on and off in each room work.
“Things have gone well during the project, and there has been great cooperation with everyone concerned,” he said.
The next big effort will be demolition of the 80-year-old school next door that Leavitt expects will start Monday, Aug. 8.
An excavator from E.L. Vining & Son, the Farmington company awarded the demolition contract, will take down the walls and roof in sections and the debris will be sorted and deposited in dump trucks and containers, Kendall said.
Because of the old school's proximity — only 20 feet in one area — to the new building, work has to be done with careful planning, she said.
The entire Mallett project, designed by Stephen Blatt Architects of Portland, also aims to be a “green” building and earn Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
Kendall said to qualify, among many other things, 75 percent of the total weight of the products from the demolition has to be recycled.
According to the U.S. Green Building Council's website, LEED certification shows that a project's design, construction, operation and maintenance was designed and built to achieve high performance in five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.
Bricks will be one of the materials that will be reclaimed. These must be separated and weighed, and then crushed off-site and reused in the manufacture of new bricks.
Granite from the window sills and entryways will saved and reused as part of a new amphitheater. Metal will be recovered, and all the wood will be properly disposed of.
“They are also saving the old marquee over the front entrance that they will use as the gateway arch into the new playing fields,” Kendall said.
Demolition actually began after school ended in June with asbestos abatement. Once that was done and workers could go inside, they tackled the interior, with materials salvaged whenever possible.
As a fundraiser, the contents of some classrooms were auctioned off, as were old wooden school chairs that were hand-painted and rejuvenated by staff and children. Also, 400 memorial bricks are available for purchase as are commemorative mugs and T-shirts.
The proceeds of all the sales will be used to purchase additional trees for the playing fields, which will be built on the site of the old school.
Principal Tracy Williams said the issue of where children will have recess while the playground and fields are under construction is still being worked out.
“Unfortunately, the playground is not supposed to be available at all next year,” she said. “That was a disappointment, but we'll make it work.”
However, the Castlemania play structure, purchased with community support, will be re-erected this fall, she said.
For now, the plan is to hold recess on the grassy area inside the circular bus loop at the front of the school with barriers set up to keep kids safe.
“When we get access to the building, I will get outside with some of the staff to try to assess how we use that bus loop and any other possible tarred spaces,” Williams said..
“I believe we'll need to try to replenish the hula hoop and jump rope and chalk supplies for the most part, but we'll need to determine the boundaries and usable space,” she said.
This week, workers are constructing the bus loop road that comes in from Middle Street and the separate one-way driveway for vehicles that runs around the back of the building and exits on Quebec Street.
Williams said a letter will go out to parents with a map of the school and an explanation of how to navigate through the site, drop kids off, the location of crossing guards for walkers and other information.
A schoolwide open house for students and families is planned for Sept. 7, and a community event will be held early in the fall, she said.