Back to school in the Morris Area School District will mean back in school.

Most of the desks and items used in classrooms at the Morris Area High School are covered and stored in the high school gym as dozens of construction workers are working in the school this summer. But when school starts on Tuesday, Sept. 3, those construction workers will be replaced with students.

“It will be occupied,” said Josh Schwinghammer, the project manager with Bradbury Stamm Construction/Winkelman Building Company LLC. Occupied means students will be in the school when it starts but there will still be some finishing work that will need to be completed, Schwinghammer said on July 24.

Doug, Stahman, school board member and a member of the school’s construction committee, said at the July 22 school board meeting that he is confident the building will be occupied by students on Sept. 3.

“We’ve been promised by everybody on the construction team that school will start on time,” Stahman said.

Roger Rodriguez uses stilts as he works on a wall July 24 in hallway at Morris Area High School. Rodriguez works for Fergus Drywall.  Rae Yost/Stevens County Times.  Rae Yost/Stevens County TImes
Roger Rodriguez uses stilts as he works on a wall July 24 in hallway at Morris Area High School. Rodriguez works for Fergus Drywall. Rae Yost/Stevens County Times. Rae Yost/Stevens County TImes

When students and staff return to the high school they will notice a change.

Schwinghammer said there will be “a night and day” difference in the science rooms and locker rooms.

The locker rooms will have individual shower stalls with new tile that incorporates the school color of orange in the design. The science rooms will have updated equipment that will replace broken and outdated equipment.

All classrooms will have new flooring and new paint and the hallways will be refreshed.

Remodeling the science rooms is a big part of the construction work this summer, Schwinghammer said.

“They had a lot of underground plumbing, gas lines…,” he said. The rooms will likely be the last to be completed.

Not only are there new utility lines but the equipment and the cabinets were replaced. The cabinets are made specifically for gas lines, water lines, hot water and similar use, Schwinghammer said.

“(Classrooms) also need a special pipe for acid waste,” Schwinghammer said. “We have two of those buried eight feet in the ground.”

Because new utility lines were installed throughout the building, concrete floors needed to be dug up. Recently, “We had 73 yards of concrete filled (in trenches). We made a lot of progress there,” Schwinghammer said.

On the morning of July 24, about 80 to 85 construction workers were working on the project. Most of those were inside the building. Some workers were carrying equipment across the room. Another worker pushed a cart filled with equipment and a bottle of water down a main hallway. One worker was installing ceiling tiles in a classroom while another was applying a finishing substance to a hallway wall.

“It’s been really fluid,” Schwinghammer said of the workflow. When one piece of a room project is completed, the next contractor starts work, he said. “I’m constantly in touch with what contractors need (to work). We call it ‘what’s the critical path to getting it done?,’” Schwinghammer said.

Representatives of all the contractors meet weekly with Schwinghammer, other Winkelman officials and school officials.

“The foremen all communicate well and there is great communication between Troy (Morris Area superintendent Troy Ferguson) and the school board,” Schwinghammer said.

“It’s really cranking along,” said school board member and school construction committee member Mike Odello at the July 22 meeting. “We have a really good crew that has our needs in mind.”

Stahman said on July 22 that contractors have been willing to recommend changes that can save the school district money on the project.

“We look at it as if we are spending our own money,” Schwinghammer said. “If it doesn’t make sense to do something, we don’t want to do it.” Also, if they notice something that should have been included in the overall plan, they will mention it, Schwinghammer said.

The engineer, architects and other contractors have a similar approach in the project, he said.

“There is a lot of pride (in this project),” Schwinghammer said. While he’s worked on many projects with good contractors and good work, this one in particular has more of a sense of pride, he said.