South Kalispell elementary construction ahead of schedule

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Construction crews work at the new elementary school in South Kalispell on Airport Road Friday morning. The school is expected to be completed August 2018. (Aaric Bryan/Daily Inter Lake)

Work continues at a steady pace on $54 million in building projects at Kalispell Public Schools.

On Tuesday, crews were busy pouring curbs for the new south elementary school parking lot. The project is ahead of schedule. All concrete slabs have been poured and project superintendent Lane Huffman of Langlas and Associates said over the next few weeks construction will go vertical with installation of structural iron and roof trusses. In the meantime, crews have been working off-site framing walls.

“As soon as I have my skeleton up we’ll start trucking in walls. By Thanksgiving, it will look like a building,” Huffman said.

Once the school becomes enclosed and work moves inside, future community tours may be planned. Already, a high school construction class has visited the site as a learning experience.

The new elementary is expected to open August 2018 and Edgerton Elementary Principal Merisa Murray has been chosen to lead the new school. Edgerton Assistant Principal Jen Stein will replace Murray as principal. Additional staffing decisions could come in March, according to Kalispell Public Schools Superintendent Mark Flatau.

A preliminary budget is being finalized regarding the renovation and expansion of the district’s five other elementary schools: Edgerton, Elrod, Hedges, Peterson and Russell.

Erick Enz of Axiom Builders Group, the district’s representative, said the design team is meeting with school staff to go over project requirements and goals. The architect will take the information from these meetings to sketch up schematic drawings, which show the overall scope of a project.

The elementary projects make up $25.3 million in elementary district bonds.

The schematic design process is wrapping up on the Linderman Education Center renovation project, according to Rory Young of Jackola.

Young described Linderman as a building with many technical complexities. Built in 1929, the last significant upgrade on Linderman was made more than 20 years ago.

“It’s a very complex building. You can tell it was put together by several different committees,” Young said, noting that the focus is figuring out how to integrate the building into “more cohesive educational space.”

Kalispell Public School Board Trustees decided to go with a construction-manager-at-risk delivery method for the Linderman project. The new south elementary is also using the same delivery method. Through this method, a general contractor is involved in the pre-construction design phase to work with architects. The idea is that the contractor is able to provide pricing estimates, in addition to expertise, before designs are completed in an effort to control costs. This is an alternative to the traditional design-bid-build method where a contractor isn’t brought in until the bid phase after design specifications have been set.

The goal is to select a construction manager at-risk in mid-November.

Flathead High School has completed schematic design work and is beginning the next phase of completing construction drawings (blueprints) that include details such as structural, mechanical and plumbing specifications. Construction drawings are expected to be completed around January 2018 according to Enz.

In regard to the H.E. Linderman Vocational Education Center, Enz said a project team will be assembled in the coming month to talk about design priorities.

The high school projects are part of a $28.8 million high school district bond issue that includes deferred maintenance improvements at Glacier High School and the completed renovation of Legends Stadium.

Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or

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