LAHS catch-up work gains funding

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By Jennifer Garcia

The Las Conchas Fire scorched more than 149,250 acres and threatened Los Alamos National Laboratory property as well as the Los Alamos town site on June 26 and is still not fully contained.
Not only were Los Alamos residents displaced for a week because of the
mandatory evacuation ordered because of the raging fire, but business in Los Alamos came to a screeching halt and a major headache was also created for the Los Alamos High School construction project. The project was stopped because of the evacuation and is now approximately a week behind schedule.
As a result, the district has opted to use $86,000 from their contingency fund of approximately $300,000 in the hope of having the E Wing and the Instructional Media Center ready for move-in on Aug. 22.
Of the $86,000 that will be used, $20,000 will be allocated for the accelerated IMC schedule, $31,000 will go toward E Wing work acceleration, and $35,000 is for materials and labor.
In the meantime, approximately 400 students per day, who would use those areas will be relocated to facilities at the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos for a week, until UNM-LA begins classes Aug. 22, at which time, LAHS classes will have to be moved. If construction of those classes at LAHS is not complete, administrators will be tasked with finding a suitable temporary site for those students.
On Tuesday night, David Wharram, the owner’s representative from the general contractor Gerald Martin, briefed school board members on how far behind the project is. According to Wharram’s report, the construction project was going well until the fire disrupted the work. The site was shut down the day that the evacuation was ordered.
Following repopulation of the town, a specialist from the LAPS district inspected the new building, after smoke from the fire entered it.
 Because the building was not sealed against the elements, Wharram feared that there might have been damage to the new construction. However, the inspector determined that the building did not sustain any damage — to include that caused by smoke.
“The insurance gave us a clean bill of health,” LAPS Chief Financial Officer John Wolfe told board members. “They checked the sheetrock for smoke damage.”
Wharram said the construction company, Flintco, is working on an accelerated plan, hoping for an Aug. 23 completion date, and an Aug. 26 hand-over date. He also told board members that using the accelerated schedule was not the only option. He pointed out that the option could be declined and the schedule would stay the same, however the IMC work would be completed a week later than anticipated, causing an issue for classes that would normally meet in that area.
LAHS Principal Sandy Warnock spoke out during the meeting, saying that if the accelerated schedule had to be used, and if a decision had to be made on whether to accelerate work on the IMC or E Wing, she would suggest that the E Wing work be accelerated.
“If we don’t accelerate the IMC, can you live with that?” School Board President Melanie McKinley asked Warnock.
“I’d like to have them both accelerated,” Warnock said. “… Everything is in its place where it should be, and we just move forward.”
LAHS teacher Brian Easton said acceleration of the project is essential.
“We might as well cancel school because that’s how bad the disruption will be,” he said, referring to what will happen if the project remains behind schedule.
Following discussion of the project, School Board Member David Foster moved to approve the accelerated schedule design using contingency funds. The motion passed 4-0; Board Vice President Kevin Honnell was absent.