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Palmer school project progressing

An S.S. Palmer Elementary renovation project is off to a good start, Palmerton Area School District officials said Monday night.

The school’s office suite will be relocated from the second level to the ground floor. Additionally, the large existing staircase that currently greets visitors upon entry will be removed. The renovation plans feature a secure vestibule at the entrance and an ADA accessible ramp will also be added to the front entrance. The old office area will be converted into small group instruction, faculty and learning support rooms.

“Interior demolition started on May 24 and exterior work started on May 28,” Joe Faenza, district building and grounds director, said. “If you have had a chance to pass, you’ll see the front is pretty much gone. They are actually getting ready to start forming the handicap sidewalk as the next step in the process. There is a lot of progress made in a short amount of time. Every day you go by, it looks different.”

Faenza said all of the historical architectural elements, such as a brick commemorating the 1924 date of the building, would remain the same.

“All of the disruption is from the original steps where they were at and three feet down,” he added. “That was all foundation you didn’t see before anyway. The whole arch that is there now, we are not going to touch that.”

Before construction began, director Kris Schaible said, she requested certain items like the brass railings inside and out of the building be saved. The plaques that adorned the walls inside the front entrance are being stored in the library and will be rehung.

“I think the team has done a wonderful job addressing any concerns about the historical aspects of the building and maintaining those architectural components as well,” Schaible said.

S.S. Palmer students ended the year learning virtually so crews could get a jump on the construction process. While the contract calls for substantial completion by Aug. 23, district officials said that doesn’t provide much of a window to get the building clean and have staff set up their rooms by a pre-Labor Day start of school. A school calendar approved for the 2024-25 school year calls for the students’ first day to be after Labor Day.

“It was a tall task the last couple of weeks ending the year virtually and making sure all the field trips ran successfully and meals were delivered to those who signed up,” Jamie Schuler, assistant to the superintendent, said. “It took a village to make that successful and I think everything went very well.”

Project cost

The district, in March, approved contracts for the project including:

• $782,015 for general construction to RC Construction Associates Inc. of Nazareth.

• $413,000 for HVAC construction and $53,000 for plumbing construction to JBM Mechanical Inc. of Nazareth.

• $164,500 for the ADA access ramp project to LB Construction Enterprises of Spring House.

• $28,500 to Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates for the design, bidding, and construction administration.

One month later, it awarded a $168,750 electrical contract to West Side Hammer Electric, of Bethlehem, and a $434,000 roof replacement contract to Centre Roofing & Coatings of Belleville.

The board retroactively approved a change order Monday to provide dehumidification sequence and control for $4,311.

“This was a good option for us to get some dehumidification in the most humid part of that building,” Faenza said. “Given some of the situations in the past there, I think it was very worthwhile.”

Director Earl Paules said he supported this change order and does not anticipate many more throughout the project.

“By the way we prepped this job and the things we did before the job even started, I don’t think we missed anything,” Paules said. “All the contractors are working well with us and we’re headed in the right direction.”

S.S. Palmer Elementary in Palmerton is under construction as part of a renovation project that will relocate the office suite from the second level to the ground floor and add a secured entrance vestibule. An ADA accessible ramp will also be added to the front entrance. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO