— By G. Jeff Golden —

The Daily Times

With the first day of classes looming just weeks away, students in Bloomfield, Aztec and Farmington can expect to see major construction on campuses when they return to school. Renovations in all three districts are scheduled to extend into the upcoming school year, but officials don't believe the construction will be too invasive to students or staff.

Students in Aztec and Farmington begin classes Aug. 18, while Bloomfield starts school Aug. 21.

Bloomfield

Bloomfield Municipal Schools awarded a $7,784,084 bid to Jaynes Corp. for Phase IV of the Bloomfield High School reconstruction at a special board meeting Tuesday. Phase IV includes new auditorium roofing and a two-story classroom building that will house science, art and special education classes, said Cody Diehl, principal of the high school.

The Bloomfield High School reconstruction project began two years ago. Funding was obtained by a local bond and the project has cost $21 million thus far, said Bloomfield Assistant Superintendent Joe Rasor.

Even after awarding the $7.8 million bid to Jaynes Corp., the district still has about $6 million remaining from last year's bond money.

The new school is being built on top of the old one. Students attended class, and will continue to do so, as buildings were razed and new, state-of-the-art ones rose like a phoenix from the ashes. But officials say it hasn't been much of an inconvenience thus far.

"The construction company always puts us first," Diehl said. "It's kind of like they're not even there."

Phase IV construction will begin as soon as possible, and with a possible Phase V on the horizon, Bloomfield High School reconstruction might not be finished until 2010.

Farmington

Renovations to an elementary school and a middle school highlight the long list of ongoing Farmington Municipal Schools construction projects.

Many of the old buildings at McKinley Elementary are being torn down. A two-story classroom building is slated to take their place, but the project's estimated completion date is Sept. 30, 2010.

The McKinley project has more in common with the Bloomfield High School renovation than just the 2010 scheduled completion. Jaynes Corp. also won the bid for McKinley, and students and staff will have to live with the construction during the school year.

"Construction always runs into the school year," said James Barfoot, assistant superintendent at Farmington Municipal Schools. "We usually don't have too many problems. There's seldom an incident."

School and construction officials have taken precautions to guarantee the safety of students at McKinley. The construction area is completely fenced off and playground equipment was moved out of the way, complete with two new basketball courts.

The district is splitting the bill for the McKinley renovation with the state Public School Capital Outlay Council. The state pays for 58 percent of the project and the district is responsible for the remaining 42 percent. The total cost is about $15 million.

Farmington Municipal Schools' share will be paid with money from local bonds, and the district is operating within its budget, Barfoot said. Jaynes Corp. is ordering materials and mobilizing at McKinley, with construction expected to begin in less than two weeks.

Renovations to Heights Middle School are wrapping up after four years of work. The bid for Phase IV, which will provide new roofing and upgraded heating and cooling units for the school, was won by Uselman Construction Company at the Farmington school board meeting July 10. Construction, at a cost of $1,821,005, is scheduled to begin soon.

The previous three phases of Heights renovation included replacing doors, windows, ceilings, lighting, fences, floors and infrastructure. The total cost of the project is about $2.2 million, Barfoot said. The state is also assisting Farmington Municipal Schools with this project, paying 60 percent of the total cost, or $1.3 million. The target completion date is March 15, 2009.

Aztec

Lydia Rippey Elementary and McCoy Elementary are the targets of renovation in Aztec. The district's master facilities plan employs a strategy where each school is only touched once every five or six years, completing projects all at once instead of perpetual minor construction, Superintendent Linda Paul said.

Construction at Lydia Rippey centers on remodeling the cafeteria, updating classrooms and upgrading infrastructure such as piping and electrical wires.

The infrastructure at McCoy is also being redone, to bring the aging school into the 21st Century.

"One part of McCoy was built in the 1950s," Paul said.

Students at McCoy will also notice a "massive expansion" to the kitchen, updated classrooms and a remodeled front office.

Both elementary schools underwent asbestos removal this summer.

Construction began as soon as school was let out after the 2007-08 school year. The project has staggered completion dates to ensure that any construction that lingers into the school year will be minimally invasive to students and staff. The classrooms and hallways will be done first, with a completion date of Aug. 4, followed by the kitchens and cafeterias in late August, and finally the parent pickup lane at Lydia Rippey in September.

The total cost of renovations to the two elementary schools is about $3.1 million, Paul said. The district is funding the project with money from a local bond issue.

The initial phase of remodeling Fred Cook Stadium is also wrapping up at the beginning of August. The school district reconstructed the field with artificial turf and laid down an all-new track surface. Phases two and three are planned to renovate restrooms, concession stands, bleachers and the press box.

G. Jeff Golden: jgolden@daily-times.com