Schools set to open…even W. Neck

Posted 8/24/23


It’s predictably difficult to find a parking place in front of Warwick Neck School. But this is summer and it’s Saturday. The parking lot is full. The front door to …

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Schools set to open…even W. Neck



It’s predictably difficult to find a parking place in front of Warwick Neck School. But this is summer and it’s Saturday. The parking lot is full. The front door to the school is wide open. People are coming and going.

Steve Gothberg, school director of construction and capital projects  and Glenn Alhborg, vice president of Alhborg Construction are standing, conferring in the warmth of the morning sun. Following the downpour and the tornado that fortunately didn’t touchdown here on Friday, Saturday offers an opportunity to get outside work done not only at Warwick Neck but also Winman, Norwood and Holliman where paving needs to be completed by Sept. 5.

Alhborg had a full crew working Saturday. They were back on Sunday at 6 a.m. in a race with time.

That became evident to Warwick Neck parents when they received an email from Superintendent Lynn Dambruch on Friday informing them despite the diligent work “to get our beautiful new building ready to welcome you back” the administration was informed “there is now a possibility that Warwick Neck will not be ready for the first day of school on September 5.”

The letter continues,  “I have also been in communication with the Rhode Island Department of Education to understand what our options may be should the start of school for Warwick Neck students get delayed, ensuring the least amount of learning disruption possible.”

The possibility that school wouldn’t be ready to open spread rapidly among parents and students.

In an email to the Beacon one parent pointed out the school calendar provides for 177 days of the required 180 days of instruction and observed at any waivers from the Department of Education or distance learning would be shorting students. Also being questioned was whether teachers would have the time to fully prepare their rooms even if the school is ready to open on Sept. 5.

That all changed by Monday when Dambruch sent another email to parents telling them the school is expected to be ready to open on Sept. 5.

“I’m thrilled to share that based on this meeting (with Alhborg on Saturday)  and follow-up conversations, we have put together an aggressive work plan to get this done, significantly improving our chances of starting school on time,” Dambruch wrote. She goes on to report that as of 4:15 p.m. Monday the department received word that “key building materials” contractors had been waiting for would be delivered Tuesday and that school department cleaning crews were prepared to start their work on Wednesday.

What changed was a plan Ahlborg and Gothberg worked out to complete work in a major portion of the school, the exception being the second story addition to the east end of the building,   that would enable department crews to clean rooms for teachers so they would be prepared for students. Meanwhile, Ahlborg subcontractors would continue working on electrical wiring, plumbing and duct work for the HVAC system.

As Alhborg walked through the school Sunday, he pointed the work that needed to be completed before the installation of ceiling tiles, lights and alarm systems. A key features enabling the work to progress without interrupting the cleaning or the teachers was consolidating materials in the all purpose room on the stage, thereby opening the area for a lunchroom and group activities; removal of windows in some kindergarten classes and their replacement with plastic so that new windows could be installed as soon as they arrived; and wiring so that the HVAC system could ensure the exchange of air.

“They delivered,” Gothberg said yesterday morning of the Alhborg crew. Kevin Oliver, director of school buildings and grounds with a team of 9 were at work washing walls and staring to strip and wax floors. The next step will be moving classroom furniture and materials from storage containers on Draper Avenue back to the school. Oliver said the school would be ready for teachers on Aug. 30.

Delays in the delivery of new hurricane-rated windows as required by code because the school is within a mile of the bay and the transformer to power the HVAC system have plagued the project that even with a compressed schedule would have taken four month.

As Alhborg pointed out on Sunday, work started the day after school closed for summer vacation, but in reality much of it got squeezed into six weeks since two weeks was lost to asbestos abatement. He called the project essentially a conversion of the building’s heating and air system requiring new gas-fired boilers, piping, control systems and the above ceiling title ducts. As wiring was encased in the cement blocks when the school was constructed, Ahlborg contractors frequently had to reroute or replace wiring to cut holes in the walls for air ducts.  Also the company was faced with reinforcing the roof with steel beams to support roof top HVAC units.

He said windows were ordered shortly after the company was awarded the contact at the beginning of the year. The company also got a jump on ordering electrical components in anticipation of supply chain shortages. Opening the door to the electrical heart to the school, Alhborg used his cell phone to illuminate a wall of conduits reaching out to all parts of the building. He gave a shout out to subcontractor RF Audet Electrical that customized and installed the system.

As recently as a month ago, Gothberg was left to guess when the transformer would be delivered. Finally when it arrived but had not been delivered to the site even though a cement pad stood ready, RI Energy refused to install it until the parking lot where it stood was paved.  The lot was being paved yesterday morning. Gothberg forwarded photos to RI Energy calling on them to install the transformer.

Gothberg was asked Saturday whether building inspectors would have time to sign off on the building and the impact of overtime shifts on the cost of the project.  He expected to obtain a provisional certificate to open the school on condition of completion of the work, which will be done on non school hours and areas of the building not accessible to students once classes resume. As for added costs, Gothberg said the department has a contract and he expects Alhborg to live by it.

But clearly the focus of the last week and the days leading up to Sept. 5 is to have Warwick Neck School and all other schools in the district ready to open. Oliver was confident of that yesterday although he and his crews faced a lot of work at Warwick Neck and several other schools .

schools, opening, Warwick Neck