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Ben Hulse modernization starts

completion expected by end of school year

August 31, 2001|By KELLY GRANT, Staff Writer

IMPERIAL — Work on the long-awaited and much-needed modernization at Ben Hulse Elementary School has begun and is on schedule for completion by the end of this school year.

Though the district anticipated modernization to begin last year, a delay in obtaining state approval and the loss of state funding for the project pushed back the start date, said Imperial Unified School District Superintendent Barbara Layaye.

The project, carrying an estimated total cost of $6,053,900, will have the entire school gutted and remodeled with technological upgrades and other improvements.

Ben Hulse Principal Jinger Myers said while the campus' exterior will not look much different once work is completed, the insides of buildings will be dramatically improved.

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The school will have new electrical and fiber-optic wiring, Internet connections, lowered ceilings for energy efficiency and a new communications system including bells and phone lines, Layaye said.

Buildings and classrooms will also have new flooring, storage units and dry erase white boards installed.

Phase one, scheduled to be completed in December, includes the renovation of 14 classrooms, the main office and multi-purpose cafeteria.

The second phase will see the renovation of the library, computer lab and remaining classrooms. The project should be finished by the end of the school year.

Anticipating construction starting last year, teachers and students vacated the phase one buildings. This year, now that construction has officially begun, all the staff had to do was clear out the main office, Myers said.

Running a school in the midst of construction has taken some invention and compromise, Myers said.

With the cafeteria out of commission, students take meals in the old library while a nearby classroom has been converted into a serving area. The arrangement, though awkward, meets all health regulations and allows the school to function on its regular schedule with no change to lunch times.

Traffic flow across campus has had to be rerouted as large sections of the school are blocked off. Students and teachers are displaced and several will be moved again in December when the second phase begins.

Myers concedes the construction presents a challenge for the smooth operation of the school, but in the end, she said, it will be worth it.

"In nine months it will be over and wonderful," Myers said.

IUSD is funding the modernization with money from developer fees and a 1995 local bond approved by the districts voters, from which money also was used to build T.L. Waggoner Elementary School. There is a possibility the state may reimburse the district in the future for the funds it had originally planned to provide.

Staff Writer Kelly Grant can be reached at 337-3441.

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