With no students on campus, the post-fire rejuvenation of Joseph Charter School’s gym — and other smoke and water-damaged portions of the school, is moving right along.
Better yet, the repairs are providing much-needed upgrades and updates to buildings and classrooms. Those include installation of LED lights in hallways, a fire sprinkler system that is up to current codes, new ceiling tiles, freshly-painted classrooms and new carpet in the music room. Work on the classroom areas should be complete by the end of April.
“If we were in session, everything would be open then,” JCS Superintendent Lance Homan said.
The work began immediately post-fire, and focused on the elementary school and school office areas where the damage was minimal. Then, in February, attention turned to the more heavily damaged portions of the high school and the gym.
“Our insurance company called me, I think while the fire was still going,” Homan said. “They put us in touch with a restoration company called One Call, and that company is doing an outstanding job. They do everything.”
That even includes gathering and restoring smoke and water-damaged photographs and memorabilia that decorated hallways — and rehanging them exactly where they were before the fire.
The gym is another matter.
“We are thinking it will be done by September when school, hopefully, opens,” Homan said.
Fortunately, the gym was not structurally damaged by the fire.
“All the beams and supporting studs came through the fire OK,” Homan said.
But beyond the building’s skeletal structure, much of the gym interior is being torn out and replaced. That includes the gym’s interior wallboard and the insulation. A new floor. A new heating system. New lights. New bleachers. A new scoreboard. A new weight room.
The gym will get a new roof.
“They’re tearing off the roof right now. There were some things that were charred that will be replaced,” Homan said. “In the middle of August we’re hoping to put down a new floor.”
Although Homan and everyone hoped that the gym renovations would be complete by September and the start of classes, he learned Thursday afternoon that the work would take longer.
The locker rooms are also getting major repairs.
“The damage there came mostly from water,” Homan said. “It got under the tiles. You could just run your hand over the tiles and they’d fall off the walls.”
Along with the new tiles comes some new, upgraded plumbing, and also replacement of insulation around the pipes suspected of harboring asbestos.
“There are a lot of unanticipated good things that have come out of this fire,” Homan said. “It seemed really difficult going from fire damage to no students on campus (because of the state-mandated school closure.) In a way, it’s good that we don’t have students on the campus now. It would be hard to do work around them with all the construction going on. It keeps the students safe, and construction can go on a little easier and faster.”
With bids for work still coming in, Homan does not yet have an estimate of the cost of all the work, but says it will be covered by JCS insurance. While the major projects, including the gym cleanup roof, have gone to larger or more specialized firms, Homan still hopes to award some contracts to local contractors.
“We’re looking forward to getting things back to normal,” he said. “It’s going to be a new normal, and maybe a better one.”
Chieftain note: This story was updated on April 30 to reflect the following additional information: Insulation in the gym walls was not suspected of containing asbestos. Insulation in the locker rooms suspected of containing asbestos was located only in insulation around pipes.