Students ready, but renovations tardy

With dust settling, high school to open

By Eun Lee Koh
Globe Staff / September 10, 2001

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An orange construction fence still surrounds the football field, and the goalposts haven't been planted, but students will be able to move into their new classrooms at Holliston High School Wednesday after more than a week of unscheduled summer vacation.

Teachers, parents, and students have been waiting since Sept. 4 - the official first day of school - for construction workers to put the finishing touches on a $27 million renovation project that has been hobbled by missed deadlines and health issues./ Although Peabody Construction, The Boston-based contractor, had vowed that classrooms would be finished on time, Holliston High's 820 students will now have to make up for lost hours over the coming year.

"This has been frustrating for all of us - parents, students, the staff," said Deborah Gleason, chairwoman of the School Committee. "But this truly has been a community effort to get the school opened safely, and as soon as possible."

Teachers will be able to move in tomorrow.

Peabody officials did not return phone calls made to their Boston office.

Last week was hectic for the School Committee and other officials, who have been meeting almost daily and posting a stream of updates on the school Web site and a construction hotline.

Throughout the day on Friday and during much of the weekend, the town's building inspector, the fire chief, and air quality specialists tested alarms, intercoms, and other equipment.

The delay of more than a week means students will have to make up six days of school. The first two will be made up on Jan. 2 and Feb. 1, originally scheduled as staff development days. The remaining days will probably be made up during spring vacation in April, said Daniel Blaney, a School Committee member.

Susan Haley, a chairwoman of the School Building Committee, said the new floor in the gym and the new desks in the classrooms are worth the wait.

"I walked through the halls the other day and saw the renovations and almost forgot the troubles we had," she said.

It's a different story for the football and soccer teams, however. New lines have yet to be marked on the athletic field, and the sod isn't ready. School officials announced late last week that Peabody promises the field will be completed in October.

Mickey Sullivan, the athletic director, said the schedules for both sports have been rearranged to start with away games. The cost of relocating athletes, as well as lost revenue from home games, could add up to $100,00. Sullivan said.Teams have been practicing at local parks, but must pay $100 a day in fees to the town.

Meanwhile, parents who had hoped to send their children to school last Tuesday had to wrestle between allowing their teenagers to enjoy the extra week of summer vacation, or occupying them with other work.

"I knew it was going to start - it was just a question of when," said Jay Leary, whose children will be a senior and a freshman at the high school. "I'm excited it's finally going to start."