Construction project moves ahead
News Staff Reporter

An $18.4 million overhaul of Grand Island schools that raised the ire of some parents for taking so long to start is moving along now, with the first phase expected to be all but finished by December 2003, officials said Monday.

At this point, new roofing for the academic part of the high school is almost finished and most of the foundation has been laid for the high school's new music wing, said interim Superintendent Vincent J. Coppola.

Next comes blacktop for the middle school's front parking lot, which should be laid next Tuesday, Coppola said.

Work on the high school and middle school - which comprise the first phase of the overall project - should be completed by December 2003, although the high school parking lot won't be completed until that spring, Coppola said.

Voters approved the project in 1999. But construction work didn't actually start until last month.

During the lengthy delay, a small but vocal minority of parents showed up at School Board meetings, accusing school officials of misleading the public about the project.

District officials contended that their critics were linked to Cannon Design, the architectural firm that lost the job to Grand Island architect Edwin Egan.

They also said the project took a long time to get going because the state Education Department was overwhelmed by a huge wave of similar projects approved throughout New York during the same period.

Coppola said the angry comments started to subside after construction started.

"One or two people still speak up, but (the criticism) has dissipated," he said. "Part of the complaining was that the project wasn't getting started, and now it is getting started."

The School Board received an update on the construction at its Monday meeting. Copolla said the briefing is a routine practice instituted in part because of the outcry by parents over the delays in the project.

Most of the money for the project, $12.8 million, is earmarked for the high school and middle school.

Another $3.3 million is to be spent on Huth Road Elementary School, for adding classrooms, enlarging others and updating restrooms to comply with disability laws. Kaegebein Elementary will also undergo construction, at a cost of $2.17 million, he said.