ADAMS TWP — About 540 kids returned to the classroom Monday morning at Mars Area Middle School.
The district's first day of school was late this year due to significant renovations being done on the building. Work started when classes ended in June and continued through the summer.
“It's just ugly in certain areas,” Superintendent Wesley Shipley said. “But teachers are prepared.”
Responding to concerns from parents, the district participated in a special weekend inspection and tour of the work area before students arrived Monday morning. Among the things monitored and checked in preparation for returning students were air quality and public address and phone systems.
Certified air quality results are expected to be posted on the district website when they're made official. Air monitoring will continue throughout the project, officials said.
The district also had the school's kitchen, electrical, plumbing, HVAC and fire alarm systems inspected. All elements passed inspection, according to a letter posted Sept. 8 on the district website.
“Everything that we need is coming into place,” Shipley said.
The construction workers have the same level of clearances as district staff, according to Shipley. An additional armed police officer will be on-site to monitor the middle school grounds and help the day-to-day security officers. This is the first year for the district's police force, which puts an officer in every school building.
Shipley said students will not be mingling with construction workers.
“Nothing will happen where there will be integration,” Shipley said.
That does not mean students won't see a worker walking down the hallway. Though construction workers may be checking things around the school, construction will only take place behind temporary walls and locked doors. In the case of after school activities, students won't gather where active construction is taking place.
“Heavy lifting will not be done when the kids are around,” Shipley said.
Shipley reminded the public the work is not done. Carpet needs to be laid. Walls need to be painted. Ceiling tiles need to be installed. Lights need to be replaced.
But Shipley believes students will be comfortable while work is being done.
“It's safe and it's warm and it's dry,” Shipley said.
Construction is expected to continue through December.