$30M West Liberty Salem construction means late school start again

Updated Sept 19, 2016

Students at West Liberty Salem started classes Monday, almost a month later than other schools as a $30 million construction project continues.

Crews completed more than $14 million of projects over the summer, including overhauling old gymnasiums and cafeterias at the school and building a new high-school level science wing.

“Two weeks ago you would have looked at this and said there’s no way they’re going to have school,” Superintendent Kraig Hissong said.

This is the second year the construction project has delayed the start of classes.

“The end is near,” Hissong said.

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If construction continues on schedule, work should be completed by late spring before students are excused on June 2 for summer break, he said.

A water warning was posted on the doors of the school and students carried water bottles Monday morning after water tests were still ongoing amid construction.

Construction on the project started in the spring of 2015. The entire project includes renovations to the existing K-12 building and a 22,000-square-foot addition to the campus.

The district will pay $9 million of the total cost, with the state covering the other 70 percent. West Liberty Salem will cover its part of the cost with funds from a bond issue that voters passed in August 2013, Hissong said.

As construction crews have gutted and added new space over the past year, students have migrated around the school, Hissong said.

The last phase of movement will be when first and second grade students are put in modular units beginning in November, Hissong said.

“It’d be nice just to get around, no construction workers anywhere,” high school junior Ely Serna said.

Many students said Monday they were impressed with the progress to the building that was made over the summer.

“I was honestly surprised it looked the way it did, I thought there’d be a lot more stuff everywhere,” Serna said.

In addition to adding more classroom space, Hissong said the construction project also includes many unseen technology upgrades.

Wifi power in the new school is stronger, Hissong said, and is able to support a one-to-one iPad program rolled out in the high school for the first time this year.

Air conditioning will also be throughout the entire school for the first time, he added.

“This will continue to provide a school that can support the type of education we want to deliver the students,” the superintendent said.