VHS work ongoing

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 19, 2006

VIDALIA &8212; The front hall is a mass of dust, cords and construction materials and they don&8217;t have lights or phone service, but Vidalia High will start school on time.

Three weeks from today, construction or not, the students will pour in.

Contractors have worked through the summer to convert the school&8217;s former library into three new classrooms. They aren&8217;t done yet. But they will be by Aug. 9, district Business Manager Tom O&8217;Neal said.

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The existing building is undergoing changes while a $1.3 million library and science lab addition is being built. The new addition &8212; originally scheduled to be open by August &8212; won&8217;t be ready until second semester.

Principal Rick Brown said he&8217;s been promised the electricity should return by the end of this week, and construction workers will be out of the main building by next week.

Workers still need to complete work on air ducts and finish new ceilings in the front hallway&8217;s rooms.

&8220;Right now we don&8217;t have a plan B,&8221; he said. &8220;We will start school on Aug. 9.&8221;

The delays trace back to a lack of available steel in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, O&8217;Neal said. Work was delayed in the spring, but is progressing now, he said.

&8220;The plan was originally to construct the new building, then vacate the building being remodeled and go in there and work,&8221; he said. &8220;It didn&8217;t work out that way.&8221;

Science classes will stay in their previous location until the addition is complete. Special education, formerly housed in portable units, will move into a new classroom in the existing building when school starts.

And, until the addition is done, the school will be without a library.

Computers for research will be set up in a classroom, and some books will be available, but the school&8217;s students may have to rely on the Concordia Parish Library for some of their studies, O&8217;Neal said.

The new library and science lab building will be 6,300 square feet with a covered walkway connecting to the existing building. The project is funded through property tax dollars. The facilities will be state-of-the-art labs with easy access to technology.

Nearly all other parish schools received renovated science labs and libraries last year.

&8220;Once everything proposed for Vidalia High School gets done it&8217;s going to be great,&8221; Brown said. &8220;This time next year we&8217;ll be talking about that.&8221;