The $2.8 million overhaul of the W.G. Rice Elementary School is nearing completion about two months ahead of schedule, South Middleton School Board members learned Monday.

“We will have everything wrapped up by Thanksgiving,” Andrew Glantz, district director of buildings and grounds, said during an update to the facilities committee.

Only minor cosmetic and punch-list items remain before the district could officially close-out a project that involved the upgrade or replacement of most buildingwide systems.

Work scheduled for this week includes the testing and balancing of the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system to verify optimum air flow and to make sure the equipment responds properly to changing needs, Glantz said.

After school on Wednesday maintenance department staff transferred the nine sections of the second grade back to their original classrooms.

The second grade was moved in October to a different part of the building to make way for contractors to come in and upgrade the original classrooms. With the work completed, the students can move back.

Committee chairman Tom Merlie called the transfer of second-graders to and from the temporary classrooms “a strategic orchestrated shift”.

The district this summer transferred the third grade from Rice to the Iron Forge Elementary School. The transfer freed up space within Rice that gave the district greater flexibility to shift students around, limiting disruptions during the overhaul. The transfer also allows more room for enrollment growth.

The Rice project included the full replacement of the building’s HVAC system, including a new chiller, a new automated control system and new rooftop units.

The project also called for the replacement of about 85 percent of the roof and 60 percent of the carpeting. The entire building interior received a fresh coat of paint and a wall was removed to create a large group instruction room and “maker” space for students to experiment with technology and innovation.

Select light fixtures were replaced with energy efficient LED lighting. A transformer that dated from the 1960s was replaced. The fire alarm system was replaced and the public address system was upgraded.

In related news, the $22 million project to renovate and expand the Iron Forge Elementary School building is nearing close-out with only punch-list items remaining, Glantz said.

He said the district is withholding funds from the general construction and electrical contractors until the work is completed. The goal is to get the work done by Dec. 1.

“The projects are definitely in the winding-up stage,” Glantz said.

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