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Construction at JFK School progresses

Addition to include modern, energy efficient features

Published: Friday, Dec. 13, 2013 2:44 p.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Dec. 16, 2013 6:04 p.m. CDT
(BCR photo/Goldie Currie)
A contractor drills together the framework of what will be an administrative office in the new addition currently being constructed at the John F. Kennedy School in Spring Valley. The new addition to the school is expected to be complete in July 2014. The project includes two wings — one will hold classrooms for fifth through eighth grade, and the second wing will hold a multipurpose room, full stage area, gymnasium, library, art room, choir room, computer lab and more. Construction is nearing 50 percent complete to date.

SPRING VALLEY — A smile meets the face of Spring Valley Elementary School District Superintendent Jim Hermes, as he walks through the construction site of what will be the new building addition at John F. Kennedy School.

He watches an assortment of busy projects taking place within the constructed walls.

Whether it be workers laying bricks, cutting cement blocks, welding metal or sorting electrical wiring, he greets them as he walks by exploring the 77,000-square-foot addition.

A little more than 45 percent of construction has been completed to date. Construction kicked off in August and is expected to finish around July 2014.

While the project cost of the addition sits around $17 million, 75 percent of costs were covered by a state grant. The leftover 25 percent of costs will be covered by the district.

“Anytime you get 75 percent of something paid for, you can’t beat it,” Hermes said.

The district has been paying for the project for about five years with issuance of $5.1 million in bonds.

“We knew we wanted to do this project. We were just waiting on the state’s portion,” Hermes said. “Last year, we received notification that we had finally received the grant through the state.”

The district was selected for the grant based off its high low income rate and the poor condition of Lincoln School, according to Hermes.

Each Tuesday, construction leaders and school officials pack into a small mobile on site trailer, as an overview and status update on each small project going on within the addition is given by Phil Heppard and Chris Rossman of Williams Brothers Construction Inc.

The addition will include a classroom wing, which will hold fifth through eighth grade. A separate wing will hold an administration office, library, art room, computer lab, choir room, gymnasium and multi-purpose room. The multi-purpose room will be used as a cafeteria, study hall and for physical education classes.

“You’ve got to see it to believe it,” said Hermes.

The addition will allow a merge between the Lincoln and JFK Schools, and solve the current issue of overcrowding at both schools.

“Right now we actually have classes on the stage at Lincoln, and we have a couple teachers sharing a classroom,” Hermes explained. “At Kennedy, we have one room that has six teachers in the room.”

The number of students in the Spring Valley Elementary School District has increased over the years to the high 700s.

“We also have a different need for our students, than we did originally. We no longer have 30 kids in a classroom. We try to maintain a nice under 25 students in a class,” Hermes explained.

As he walks through the site, pointing out what will fill each framed room, Hermes explains how the new addition will include the most modern, energy efficient building features.

The most distinguishing feature is the geothermal heating and cooling system, which will take natural heat out of the ground for heating and push it into the ground for cooling. The system will also measure carbon dioxide levels in classrooms.

“Typically at the end of the day, you have too much carbon dioxide in the room and students are falling asleep and getting tired, so this pumps fresh air into the classroom to help keep students awake,” Hermes said. “We’re one of the first schools in the area to have this.”

Another energy efficient feature is the LED lighting, which allows lightbulbs to have a life expectancy that reaches somewhere near 30 years. The design of the school building will also help bring in more natural lighting, which will assist in energy costs.

The addition’s precast concrete exterior walls will be a big factor in maintaining heating and cooling. The innovative walls were molded in a factory in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, before being transported to the construction site by semi-trailers and welded together.

Hermes explained the school board’s main focus when designing this new addition was finding any and all energy efficient routes.

“We’re basically saving our taxpayers money in the long run, by going energy efficient. The items cost more up front, but in the long run will save this district money,” Hermes said.

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