The delayed opening of the new Wainwright Intermediate School in Fircrest grew one step closer Tuesday as work crews began moving in furniture for the new building.
The 65,000-square-foot, $35 million project, a combined upper elementary and middle school, was supposed to open at the start of the current school year. But Tacoma Public Schools officials blamed a combination of unfavorable weather and shifting market conditions, including material and labor shortages, that resulted in construction delays and caused them to postpone the opening.
Officials say students will be in their new classrooms no later than Jan. 3, when they return from winter break.
The academic areas of the new school are largely complete, the driveway is paved, the gym floor is laid, and bleachers were being installed Tuesday. The heating system is scheduled to be running by week’s end. Technology tools will be in place by the end of the month, district spokeswoman Alicia Lawver said.
On Tuesday, workers crisscrossed the front of the building as they began building a rain garden near the front entrance. The garden includes a series of “nurse logs” that will gradually decay and become integrated into the micro-environment of the garden. Others were busy carrying tables, book shelves and other furniture into classrooms.
“It’s beginning to look like a school now,” one worker said.
Lawver said the district is working closely with the contractor, Neeley Construction of Puyallup, and the city of Fircrest to determine official occupancy dates. A phased transition process allows the contractor to complete final details while the school district begins to move in furniture and technology, test equipment and work through final logistics.
It’s beginning to look like a school now.
A worker at Wainwright Intermediate School
According to the contract between the school district and Neeley, construction was scheduled to be substantially complete by Aug. 1.
The contract specifies penalties of $1,500 a day for failing to meet the deadline, but the school district says it must factor in how much of the delay the contractor could control. Those terms will be negotiated when the project is completed, Lawver said.
Designed for students in fourth through eighth grades, the school was scheduled to open this year for fourth- through sixth-graders, with seventh- and eighth-graders added in subsequent years.
Wainwright students have been temporarily housed at nearby Whittier Elementary. The basement of that school was temporarily remodeled for sixth-graders, at a cost of about $160,000.
Once Wainwright students move to their new school, Whittier will serve preschool through third grade. At full capacity, Wainwright can house 450 students.
Whittier and Wainwright plan to offer the International Baccalaureate program, which features rigorous classes with an international focus that includes foreign language study. It also emphasizes character development. The program, founded in 1968, is governed by a nonprofit organization that works with thousands of schools around the world.
Schools start as International Baccalaureate candidates for several years before final status is conferred.
Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635