SALEM — Staff, students and construction crews at Collins Middle School are playing an intricate game of musical chairs.
The Highland Avenue school is roughly halfway through a $40.9 million renovation, which will replace the roof, windows, heating and cooling systems, flooring, classroom lighting and exterior masonry.
Portions of the building are sealed off during each phase of construction — there are seven — and each phase sends a new group of teachers and students into temporary classrooms elsewhere in the building. It’s a process that has been planned in advance and orchestrated by school administrators and project management.
But that doesn’t mean it’s been easy.
Project manager Josh Sydney said it’s been a big job to coordinate work on a 240,000-square-foot, fully-occupied and operating school. Sydney, of KV Associates of Boston, serves as liaison between Salem and state officials and the contractors at Collins and at Saltonstall School, which is also being renovated.
“It’s been a lot of work keeping people safe and happy,” he said.
Work at Saltonstall should be finished in July and Collins by the end of December. Both projects are on schedule and on budget, said Paul L’Heureux, director of facilities for the schools.
Saltonstall’s 363 students should be back in their own building for the coming school year, after two years of using classrooms at Bentley Elementary and the former St. James parochial school on Federal Street. Saltonstall’s $18 million construction project is much of the same work that is happening at Collins — replacing the roof, windows and heating system as well as upgrades to classroom lighting and telephone and data lines. The school dates to 1916 and underwent a major renovation from 1994 to ‘96.
As at Collins, air conditioning is being installed throughout the building, asbestos is being removed, and floors, windows and duct work are being upgraded.