Hillview on hold

MONICA PRYTS | Allied NewsRenovations at Hillview Elementary School in Grove City are on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grove City Area School District officials hope that work will resume soon on Hillview Elementary School.

“There are some rooms that are very close to finished,” Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Finch said on Thursday.

Work on the building addition was completed in time for the beginning of this school year, and construction had been progressing on renovations to the existing structure.

Some work continued when Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on March 13 ordered all schools to close for two weeks in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Hillview project stopped completely when Wolf’s stay-at-home order was issued for the entire state on April 1. That includes schools, which are using online instruction for the rest of the school year.

When the district started construction in the summer of 2018, they were aiming to have an occupancy permit for the entire building by the end of this August – with a few things still left to be completed once classes start.

“That has remained plausible up until this point,” he said.

They’ve already lost several weeks of work due to the shutdown orders.

“There’s some possibility that’ll have a ripple effect,” Finch said.

It’s too soon to say whether the delay will put the construction crews too far behind for their checklists to be finished come August.

This week, Wolf extended the stay-at-home order to May 8.

He has indicated that some activities might be able to resume before that date – like school construction – so Finch is hoping that the Hillview project can pick up where it left off as soon as possible.

They’re still hoping to start the 2020-21 school year with all elementary students at Hillview, so the district sees the project as “critical.”

That means moving the kindergarten and first grade students from Highland Primary Center to Hillview, where they’ll join grades two through five.

In the meantime, Eckles Construction Services continues to monitor the project and contractors, and everyone is working on plans to proceed that will follow strict safety measures plus guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control, Finch said.

Some of these details are difficult to hash out, like the social distancing rule. Some construction jobs require the laborers to work together closely.

Contractors are also using this time to inventory materials and check with suppliers to see if they’ll still be able to make deliveries.

“It hasn’t been easy to get masks,” Finch said.

As long as the CDC guidelines remain in place, crews may have to work in shifts in order to avoid large groupings, and the workforce itself may have to be downsized.

School officials are also revising graduation plans for this year’s seniors.

Even though they won’t be ending the year at the high school, they will still officially graduate and receive their diplomas and transcripts, he said.

The school is open to ideas on how to celebrate the class, like gathering later in the year or making video tributes.

“We also have folks working on creative ideas,” Finch said.

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