PLAINS TWP. — One part of the rapidly-rising Wilkes-Barre Area School District construction project now requires a person to “open” a large flap of reinforced plastic to enter or exit. It seems like a small thing, but plastic sealing of windows and entrances is a sign that work can continue even if Jack Frost blows a deep chill into the region.
Warm weather has allowed better-than-expected progress on the consolidated high school so far this winter. Walls are at or near full height for the gym and auditorium. Long trusses were being bolted together and hoisted upward, courtesy of a 198-foot crane, to support roofing over the largest rooms. At least three sections were nearly sealed with temporary plastic, and a tank of propane stood ready to fuel portable heaters to continue indoor work.
Two of the four classroom wings had walls at or beyond the top of the first story, with contractors doing prep work in anticipation of pouring the second story flooring.
During a Monday tour with a pair of superintendents — School District Superintendent Brian Costello and Project Superintendent Jim Callahan of Apollo Group Inc. — Costello stressed how much work had been done to assure construction can continue through the winter. Part of one education wing, a training room and wrestling room were all nearly sealed from the weather. Footers had been put in place for every wall save a small corner near the back of the school.
It wasn’t so long ago Costello stood amid an expanse of black dirt with little more than orange flags marking where walls would be, yet proudly smiled that he was standing on “Main Street,” the wide, long hallway that will greet visitors at the front entrance.
On Monday “Main Street” was clearly visible, walls of the auditorium and gym towering on each side, small eye-hooks jutting out from the mortar between the cement blocks, ready to anchor the facade bricks students will see when the building is done.
Callahan helped visitors navigate around thick mud churned up by construction vehicles running between expanses of paved lot and towering walls.
The swimming pool, barely a hole in the ground during a November tour, was lined with cement, the “mat slab” foundation — some 18 inches of reinforced concrete designed to distribute heavy loads — in place.
The stage that was barely an outline in November is now clearly defined by auditorium walls.
Outside the windows of one building, contractors had built two small samples of exterior wall and roofing so the district could pick a final color for the outer facade.
A lot of work remains, of course, including widening of the exit off the Cross Valley Expressway onto River Street near Maffett Street. Work also needs to be done on Ann Street, where sewer lines for the school will connect to main lines. Those jobs will probably go out for bid in the spring,
But the project overall remains within the $121 million budget and on target for the planned construction end date of May 2021, Costello said.
Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish