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Summer projects under way at schools

| July 14, 2005 12:00 AM

By STEVE KADEL Western News Reporter

There is plenty of activity in Libby schools this summer even though classes are not being held.

Renovation and construction is under way at Asa Wood Elementary, Libby Middle School and Libby High School as well as Central School and the McGrade building. Projects totaling $177,626 will be completed by the time students return in the fall.

"We're spending money for things that will last another 50 years," said Superintendent Kirby Maki. "It isn't just for aesthetics. It's for safety concerns."

At Asa Wood, the walking path around the perimeter of the building is getting a new asphalt layer. It's also being re-routed in a couple of places, and will lead from the school building directly to the basketball court. A dirt path had linked the school and court before, resulting in lots of dirt and mud being tracked into hallways and classrooms.

When the fencing work is completed, the entire campus will be enclosed. There will be a few gates that can be locked or left open for community use of the grounds.

The basketball court got a new surface of asphalt, too. A crew from Kootenai Paving finished that project Friday in temperatures that reached into the low 90s. Company owner George Niemi watched as finishing touches were applied.

"He wanted it flat and black," Niemi said of Maki's specifications. "We took some high spots off, and there were some pieces of metal sticking up from old posts."

The biggest projects of the summer are at Libby High School, where the gym ceiling is being repaired, the gym floor reconditioned, and new scoreboards and a reader board installed. The fire marshal required the ceiling improvement to reduce chances of a fire spreading quickly, Maki said.

Gym rafters were cleaned, and new soundboards will be installed to replace ones that had deteriorated.

The roof over the industrial arts section of the building also will be rebuilt in time for fall classes.

The girls' locker room at the high school will get 12 new partitioned shower stalls, along with new toilet facilities. Last year, only three showers worked despite the room being used by physical education students each period of the day, plus by athletic teams after school. The toilet was cracked and lacked privacy partitions.

The high school's front doors will be redesigned to emphasize the location as the building's main entry point. The school office will be remodeled to allow visitors entering the school to be seen by office staff — another safety precaution.

Middle school projects include a new sidewalk, visitor parking upgrades, and renovations of bathrooms and storage areas. The high school's two previous scoreboards will be installed in the middle school gym.

Roof, walls and drains will be upgraded at Central School, while McGrade's remodeling will provide for new offices of Northwest Regional Resource Conservation and Development. Maki said the district's leasing of space at McGrade to various government agencies has been a money-maker.

"We were already paying for heat, lights, mowing the lawn and plowing the parking lot," he said. "To me, it's money in the bank. We're budgeting the same amount as when the building closed, but now it's a positive $30,000 to $40,000 instead of a negative $20,000."

He emphasized that although the work at several district properties is costly, maintenance can't be put off forever. For example, some district facilities haven't been upgraded in 40 or 50 years, he said, which makes it difficult to find the right parts when repairs are needed.

"You can patch things or you can fix the problem long-term," Maki said.