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HARMONY: Students adapting to school renovations

by NICOLE ELLI, Gazette Student News Reporters on October 19, 2012 11:00 AM

WESTOVER -- When students in the Harmony Area School District returned to school this year, in addition to books and computers, they saw yellow hard hats, cranes and jackhammers.

The renovation project that began in early August has affected everything from where we eat to where we study.

Since we have such a small school, it really wasn't a big deal for the elementary classrooms to move down the hall into the high school. It was a little cramped, but we all got used to it. The school has gone through a lot of changes during the past month and a half.

I recently sat down with our new superintendent, Dr. Jill Dillon, formerly of Hanover, to find out what people don't know about the renovation project. She was very excited about the project and its outcome.

During the interview, I learned what exactly is being replaced: the roof on the entire school, the water systems, locker rooms, fixtures in the bathrooms, piping and electrical fixtures, and the heating and air conditioning system.

Also, the security system is being greatly improved. There will be a new door into the high school that will be connected to the office, allowing people to walk directly into the office. The security systems on the gym and elementary are being replaced as well.

The district was able to obtain $6 million in interest-free bonds with approximately 64 percent reimbursement from the state.

Dr. Dillon explained, "You need to do a feasibility study, and the reimbursement is only renewable every 20 years. So, you need to make sure everything will last for 20 years. Besides keeping the budget in mind, you need to separate your 'want' list from your 'need' list. But the rule of thumb is that everything will be right for the kids."

Because we had to wait for the reimbursement, the startup date was later than what was planned.

"Our original startup date was July 2. We sent in our applications to the PDE (Pennsylvania Department of Education), and everything has to be perfect. That is why the contractors couldn't start until the beginning of August."

But despite all of that, the project is still on schedule.

"Everything should be finished by the beginning of February," Dr. Dillon stated. With four contractors, a clerk of works, and countless construction workers under Dr. Dillon's supervision, I'm sure that will happen.

Dr. Dillon also said that this is not her first construction project. "I have been a superintendent for six years," she stated, "so nothing is really brand new. You just need to look at the plans, and work with the architects and contractors, as well as keeping in mind the schedule and submittals. But first and foremost is everyone's safety in the school. Second is to keep the flow of the education program running for the kids, and the third most important thing is communication with the board and staff, and hopefully it will get back to the public."

Everyone will have to work together until the project is completed, especially those involved in fall sports, since at the moment we do not have a gym.

Dr. Dillon is reassuring, saying, "Without giving too many specifics, Mr. Butterworth, the sports coordinator, is working on having practices in the cafeteria and having away games. He has been very cooperative, as well as the other teachers and students with what I call 'field days.' So far the elementary had to go on a 'field day' to different classrooms, and everyone went on a 'field day' when we lost the cafeteria and had to eat in the gym."

The renovation has been a bit overwhelming at times, but everyone seems to have made adjustments.

Next week you will hear teachers' and students' views on the project and how they are adjusting to the new action at Harmony.

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