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Grayson school could open on time

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By Ben Bomberger, Reporter

INDEPENDENCE — Nearly 90 percent of all building framing is complete at Grayson Highlands School, under construction in the western end of the county.

Grayson County Schools' Director of Personnel Chad Newman updated the school board on the progress during the board's regular meeting July 13 and said that work continues to go "really well."

There are more than 50 people working busily on the site, trying to make up days lost during the bad parts of winter and ensuring the building is ready to open by January 2010.

Newman said contractors are still "very positive" about having the building ready by the first of December and that school personnel are certainly pushing from their end to make sure it's complete.

Plans are to close Mount Rogers Combined School and Bridle Creek Elementary mid-way through the 2009-10 school year. Students will depart their respective schools in December, and return the second semester — hopefully — in the new building.

School Board Vice Chairman Shannon Holdaway asked about the work on the turning lanes.

Newman said the school system is talking with homeowners involved to obtain the needed easements.

Holdaway next asked if there was a transition plan in place for moving the students and teachers mid-year.

Schools Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Thomas said the administration is working with the staff and have began discussing how it will take place.

The best-case scenario for the school system is to have the transition plan ready to implement during the Christmas/New Year's break.

Although it's no guarantee, Thomas said it is a "good possibility."

Holdaway was also concerned about having the septic system in place.

Newman said the school system is hoping to advertise bids for the septic system later in the month, at the same time bids open for the water line from Troutdale.

The only thing holding engineers up from opening bids are various environmental permits that have yet to be obtained. Newman said the school system is making progress on that, as well, and will continue to push forward.

One last concern Holdaway had was the removal of trees on the property the school system purchased.

Newman said the contract gives the owners until January to remove all trees — or they would become the school's property.

He added that there was room on the property for the owners to get to the trees without using the school system's entrance, if they were still removing the trees when the new school opened.

Newman spoke briefly about renovations at Fries Middle School, as well.

He said construction continues to go well there, and that the cafeteria work is progressing nicely and should be ready by the open of school next month.

One of the school's oil tanks was found to be leaking, but because it posed an environment concern, the school system was able to obtain grant money to remove the tank.

Newman noted that the school system will have to look at replacing that tank down the road, however.

Holdaway took a chance to express that he was pleasantly pleased with the amount of work being done on both sites.

He said he drives by the Grayson Highlands site several times a week and has noticed that workers look like a bunch of "angry bees" — even at 6 p.m.

"There is a lot of work going on at both places," he said.

Holdaway's final question was if there were any budget concerns the board needed to be aware of.

Newman said he is working with the contractors and should have an update on the budget for the board next month.