Archive for Thursday, January 26, 2006

School projects continue progress

January 26, 2006

It's hard to see progress on Lansing school district's $23.6 million bond projects right now, but progress is being made, those working with the project say.

To the public eye, it may look like nothing has happened in the building of the new elementary school on West Mary Street or the high school auditorium, but behind the scenes, the projects' architects have been at work meeting with district faculty, staff and administrators, pounding out details and revising drawings to complete the design-development phase and move on to construction.

Last week, representatives from Wilson and Company, the firm handling the design of both projects, were in Lansing to meet with teachers and staff to hone the designs. The meetings, which took place Jan. 17 and 18, yielded some "very lively discussions," said Jon Plumer, an architect with Wilson and Company.

Plumer said meetings last week marked the second time architects had met with faculty to plan the spaces. The first meetings were in May and June 2005, shortly after bonds were sold to finance the project.

There was much more discussion this time, Plumer said.

Topics discussed at the elementary school meetings covered everything from how trash will exit the building to the location of special education classrooms, Plumer said.

One hot topic, Plumer said, was security at the school. The most recent design of the elementary school featured two entrances that funnel visitors in through the office before gaining entrance to the building. One concern raised, Plumer said, was that people in the office could not see the entrances. The question now is one entrance or two, he said.

"We got a lot of great feedback from staff on that," he said.

Discussions about the auditorium, Plumer said, included drama and music teachers and yielded input on band uniform and instrument storage, a service entrance to the stage and finishes on the lobby floor, wall and ceilings. Mary Alice Schroeger, director of Lansing Educational Foundation Fund, also requested space in the lobby for the foundation to display plaques, wall art or a sculpture, Plumer said.

A major discussion concerning the auditorium is whether to have a full fly gallery above the stage, Plumer said.

Schools superintendent Randal Bagby said a fly gallery would allow sets to be pulled up to the ceiling, hidden from audience view. It would also add about 30 feet to the height of the building and increase the cost, he said.

Theaters with a fly gallery are common in the area, Bagby said, but it was not in Lansing's original plan. The school board will have to take up the issue at its meeting Feb. 13, he said.

He's heard conflicting thoughts on the issue, Bagby said, "but I have yet to talk to a drama person who says we don't need one."

Plumer said the next step in the process for him would be to revise project drawings with the staff's input. He'll present the changes to Bagby in early February and make a presentation to the board at its next meeting.

The board will either make further changes or sign off on the project, Plumer said. If it approves, it will fix-freeze the floor plan and allow the project to move into the construction phase.

Once the projects do go into the construction phase, Bagby plans to form a quasi-professional group of community members with expertise in masonry, landscaping, electricity, plumbing and other areas to give their opinions on the construction as it goes along, he said.

"This is the community's building, and we want them to have as much input as possible," he said.

Bagby also said he planned to create a Web site dedicated to the construction progress.

"It's a little premature (for the site)," he said. "There's not a lot of information to post right now, but that will change rapidly."

It's Bagby's hope to post Web cams that will allow patrons to see the progress on the buildings, even if they can't drive by the sites, he said.

As for a groundbreaking, Bagby said that would happen "hopefully early this spring."

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