With the new school year already underway, construction on the St. Croix Central Elementary School is close to being completed, with the front entrance, main offices and the library media center scheduled to be finished by the end of October according to SCC School District Superintendent Tim Widiker.
"All the instructional areas, minus the library media center, are complete," Widiker said. "The goal from Day 1 was to get those rooms ready for the first day of school.
"The only thing that is yet to be done here is the library media center, since that was completely gutted, along with the main offices and the main entrance. The deadline for both of those to be completed is the end of October."
In addition to the reconstruction to repair the damages from last April's fire, the school all saw upgrades to its heating and cooling systems as part of a regularly scheduled energy reinvestment project.
"The energy reinvestment was significant in that everything related to heating, ventilation and air conditioning was completely torn out and replaced," Widiker said. "All the ductwork, every wall unit and heater in the building was removed and, of course, the boilers as well. They also added the rooftop unit, so the whole building is air-conditioned (minus the gymnasium), which has been great with this weather."
For the time being, the main office staff, including Principal Heidi Weisert-Peatow, is working out of a trailer positioned at the front of the school. However, Widiker is proud of the way the staff has made the best of a bad situation.
"The staff has been completely flexible with the office situation," Widiker said. "They've all worked together with [Weiser-Peatow] to come up with alternative plans and I feel like the communication has been great. Is it inconvenient? Absolutely. Luckily, it is only temporary. You can do anything for a couple months."
The toughest part for the teachers and the staff had to deal with because of the construction was not being able to get into their classrooms and offices until just before school started this fall.
"The staff not being able to get into their classrooms until just before school started was probably the toughest part for most people," Widiker said. "And for the office staff, everything was pretty much lost [in the fire] including all their files and everything else, so starting over and not having a home base until just a week before school started has been tough for them as well."
One of the biggest problems for Widiker and the staff to solve has been figuring out the logistics of picking up and dropping off students at the school on a daily basis.
"Busing loading and drop-offs had to be changed with the front entrance being under construction," Widiker said. "The library time, as well as access to the new computer lab, has had to be put on hold. That is a huge inconvenience as well."
Despite all the construction and challenges it has brought to the elementary staff, Widiker feels like things have gone well over the first few weeks of school.
"As far as school itself, things have been going well," Widiker said.