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Polk, Liberty schools to be done by late June, in time for ’22-’23 school year

By Tim Vandenack - | May 11, 2022

Tim Vandenack, Standard-Examiner

The outside of Polk Elementary in Ogden on May 9, 2022. The $30 million overhaul and expansion of the school is to be done this summer.

OGDEN — Both the revamped Polk Elementary and Liberty Elementary, the new school that will replace T.O. Smith, are taking shape and nearly done.

“Things are moving very quickly. (Polk) is starting to resemble a school,” said Chris Kartchner, program director for BDK, the contractor building the two schools. Polk, which closed at the end of the 2020-2021 school year to allow for the massive $30 million overhaul and expansion, sits on the East Bench at 2615 Polk Ave.

Work on Liberty off 33rd Street near Gramercy Avenue in southern Ogden similarly moves ahead. Kartchner told Ogden School District officials when they met last Thursday that both schools should be finished early in the summer, in time for the 2022-2023 school year. “It’s anticipated they’ll both finish through the month of June,” he said.

Completion of the work at the two schools would culminate the projects contemplated in an $87 million bond issue approved by voters in 2018. The Liberty project has a $25.6 million price tag, according to figures provided by the district.

Work on East Ridge Elementary, the new school that replaced Horace Mann, finished in 2021. That $28.2 million school opened last August for the 2021-2022 school year. The fourth project funded with bond money was the $7 million expansion of Wasatch Elementary, which closed for the 2019-2020 school year to allow for the work.

Tim Vandenack, Standard-Examiner

The outside of Polk Elementary in Ogden is pictured Monday, May 9, 2022. The $30 million overhaul and expansion of the school is to be done this summer.

Though the cost of the four projects totals $90.8 million, slightly more than the bond amount, Jer Bates, the district spokesperson, said costs of the three new schools stayed within budget despite inflation and supply issues. District officials had said in early 2020 that the estimated price tag of the four projects would balloon to $106.5 million.

“Our project managers worked to lock in orders for materials in advance and store the materials rather than wait until they were needed before placing the orders. This resulted in a significant impact in avoiding inflation increases and supply chain issues,” Bates said.

Other public projects have faced price increases of 50% or more in addition to time delays, Kartchner noted. “We’re doing well in spite of the doom and gloom,” he said.

Liberty is a brand new school built on the grounds where T.O. Smith, now torn down, had sat. T.O. Smith students are using the vacated Gramercy School building for the 2021-2022 school year. The shell of the older sections of Polk were kept intact and it is being modernized and upgraded, with new sections taking shape around it.

Amber Allred, a member of the school board, said at last Thursday’s meeting that she had received feedback from a constituent that the Polk Elementary playground under the revamped configuration appeared small. Kartchner, in response, noted the particularities of the grounds where Polk sits.

“Polk is the smallest elementary school for working on, period. It’s the largest building,” he said. The amount of grassy area has been cut to less than half of what it was, he explained, but that amount of space containing playground equipment and basketball courts has increased four to five times.

The three new elementary schools — Polk, Liberty and East Ridge — will all have solar panels to help generate power consumed at the new facilities.

Among the changes in the new schools will be moves away from space meant solely for computer labs, since students are now supplied with portable Chromebooks and other electronic devices, Bates said. That frees up space that can be used for other purposes.

East Ridge and Liberty contain open spaces that can be used for collaborative activities. “These two schools also integrate commons areas for large student gatherings,” Bates said.

Formal ceremonies to unveil Polk and Liberty will take place during the summer.

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