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"Better, brighter school awaits students"

"Construction work at the newly remodeled Oak Harbor Middle School has pretty much come down to following the dots.Self-adhesive, colored dots mark places where minor flaws such as scratches, scuffs and missing shelves need to be touched up before the school can be ready for a grand reopening. It's the culmination of a year-and-a-half reconstruction project that in many cases took the dark, damp and deteriorating 1959 school buildings down to their framing before rebuilding.The library we took clear to the ground, said Oak Harbor School District Construction Manager Gary Goltz as he stood in the school's clean, bright and nearly completed new library where shelves of books are already in place.Brighter and more open is how the new school feels these days. That's despite the fact that more than 160 skylights were removed during remodeling. Much of the feeling comes from the fact that nearly all the ceilings have been raised significantly thanks to a new pitched roof. Lighter paint colors also contribute to the brighter feeling, as do refurbished and freshly-painted lockers, more-efficient light fixtures and bigger windows.Construction costs for the Oak Harbor Middle School remodeling came to about $6.94 million, or about $84.37 per square foot. That's a good price, Goltz said, noting that the state average for school remodeling is around $130 per square foot.Adding in the costs of architects, hazardous material abatement, sales tax, permit fees, furniture, equipment and other charges, the total cost of the project came to about $9.38 million. The school is just part of a massive 5-year, $42 million districtwide school construction and renovation project that will ultimately involve all but one of the district's schools and several administration and maintenance buildings. The construction costs are being picked up by a $26 million bond passed by local voters in 1996, along with state matching funds.Oak Harbor Middle School students spent most of 1999 and half of 2000 housed at the old North Whidbey Middle School building on NE Fourth Avenue. They will return to their new school in September. Once there, they'll see lots of changes such as video monitors, refinished bleachers in the gym and computer hookups in the classrooms. But Goltz said most of the changes are behind the scenes. The school has new plumbing, new electrical systems, new heating and air-handling systems and insulation.There was no insulation in the old building. Zero, nada, zip, said Goltz, making a big 0 with his fingers. Now, he said, there is a minimum of 10 inches of insulation in the walls and ceiling.The new air circulation system changes the air in each room 12 times per hour, said Goltz. He said such a system should reduce the numbers of colds spread around the school each year.At the same time work on Oak Harbor Middle School is wrapping up, the next phase of remodeling is just beginning at Crescent Harbor Elementary. Much of the same kind of repair and upgrading that went into the middle school will be done at the elementary, on a smaller scale.Last week, crews began initial demolition and this week started hazardous material removal at Crescent Harbor in a project that will cost close to $2 million. About $200,000 in cost savings from the middle school remodeling will be passed on to the Crescent Harbor budget. Remodeling at the elementary school should be completed in February. Until then, Crescent Harbor students will attend class at the old North Whidbey facility. In February, more school shuffling will take place when Crescent Harbor students move back to their remodeled school. At the same time, students from Clover Valley Elementary move into the old North Whidbey building for the remainder of the school year while Clover Valley is remodeled. Construction at Clover Valley will be completed next summer."

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