A summer of school's renovation

It is Centennial Lane's turn for the first phase of changes


The minute the doors closed at Centennial Lane Elementary School last month, a small army of construction workers invaded half of the building, embarking on a 10-week journey to equip the school with systemic renovations in time for the beginning of the academic year next month.

"They literally came in at 4 p.m. that afternoon," said Robert Bruce, principal at Centennial Lane. "They tore out everything within a week and a half. It was like an empty shell."

Since 1992, the Howard County school system has completed about 45 similar projects in its schools with the same frantic pace.

It is part of the systemic renovation plan, which replaces ventilation and air ducts, rewires electrical systems and refreshes furnishings and fixtures, all over the course of two summers, said Tom Kierzkowski, director of school facilities.

During the first phase of the $9.7 million project at Centennial Lane, the main office, teachers room, media room and third-grade and fourth-grade classrooms are being overhauled.

"It's a monumental undertaking that many people do not know about or can understand," Kierzkowski said.

In addition to Centennial Lane, construction projects at Guilford, Running Brook and Lisbon elementary schools are in the second-year phase and are scheduled to be completed next month.

"The summer program is terribly intense," said Kierzkowski, noting that, until recently, crews worked from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. "We do not have a summer vacation."

Bruce said he has been impressed with the efficiency of the project.

"They have definitely been working double time," said Bruce, who has weekly meetings with Whiting-Turner Contracting Co., the project contractor. "I think they are phenomenally on target."

The project has moved Bruce and his staff from the building to what they affectionately refer to as the "executive suite," a double-wide trailer next to the school.

And although the space is cramped - four offices are set up in the unit - employees are making the most of the experience.

"It's very cozy," Bruce said with a hint of sarcasm. "Our computers are up and running. That is the important thing."

Assistant Principal Barbara White said the cramped spaces have been an inconvenience at times, but she is looking forward to the result.

"I feel really blessed that they [school system] care enough to do this," said White. "It's been really interesting."

White, who just completed her first full year at Centennial Lane, went through a similar renovation when she was an assistant principal at West Friendship Elementary.

"It was really exciting," White said, recalling the pupils' reaction to the completed renovation at West Friendship. "It was like walking into a new building."

Genee Varlack, principal at Guilford Elementary, is looking forward to showcasing the completed $6.9 million project with her pupils, staff and parents when classes begin Aug. 28.

"It will be a new building for us," said Varlack. "When we saw the older part versus the renovated part, we realized the difference. When the students, parents and staff walked in, they walked slowly, and they were in awe."


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