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Middle school construction plans required some creative thinking

Construction at Hastings Middle School has begun to update the school's HVAC system and upgrade the gym floor, bleachers, auditorium stage and seating. File photo

An almost $23.55 million Hastings Middle School construction project started Monday and required a little creative thinking from school administrators — where to put the classes when construction goes on next school year?

A science class needs a sink, so an art room was found to be a fit. A computer lab will be repurposed into a full-fledged classroom. A teacher with two classrooms will have to settle with one for half of the construction project.

"You know, you find teachers are very resilient, very flexible," said Joe Haas, assistant middle school principal, who helped plan the project. "Would a teacher rather stay in their classroom because it's the most comfortable? Absolutely."

But the school's teachers know the upcoming nuisance will be worth it, he said. The four-phase project will update the school's heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, which was last updated in the late '60s to early '70s, and is slated to be finished by summer 2020.

Monday's work started in the locker rooms and isn't expected to affect the remainder of the school year.

The project stretches past the HVAC and locker replacements too. Upgrades to the gym floor, bleachers, auditorium stage and seating are planned as well.

"It's a huge project, a lot of people are working together," Haas said.

Aging HVAC mechanics and equipment had long been needed to be updated, Haas said. In one incident the school's boiler overheated and set off fire alarms, and other maintenance was done in a "piecemeal" style, he said.

"It gets to be time when it's not efficient anymore," Haas said.

The project was officially green-lit when Hastings-area voters approved a $49.5 million bond for building upgrades. Other projects include the high school roof upgrades and Todd Field renovations.

The middle school construction ran into a slight issue in March when the initial contractor, Burnsville-based CM Construction, withdrew its bid after misbudgeting the project. The Hastings School Board instead accepted a bid from St. Paul-based Corval Construction Inc.

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