LPS construction continues as school year approaches

Some LPS students may see construction work happening at their school while others are getting two more weeks of summer while important work finishes up.
Published: Aug. 10, 2022 at 9:41 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 11, 2022 at 8:08 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - In five days, most Lincoln Public Schools students will be going back to class. For some, there may be construction work happening at their school and for others, they’re getting two more weeks of summer while important work finishes up.

LPS said construction this close to the start of classes and even during the school year is not uncommon.

At the newest elementary school, Ada Robinson Elementary, the opening has been delayed two weeks. Something the district said, isn’t a big surprise.

“We probably knew the day that we bid that it was going to be a challenge. We were always optimistic, we took the project on very aggressively,” said Scott Wieskamp, the Director of Operations for LPS. “We had a great winter in terms of getting work done on the exterior, we just realized as we got closer to the finish line that we weren’t gonna quite get there so we needed to reevaluate that.”

That aggressive timeline stems from a 2020 bond issue, which was passed about a month before the pandemic started.

Right now, LPS has more than 25 construction projects going on. They all have a combined price tag of about $220 million, with seven other projects in design phases.

“Some are just beginning and some of them are wrapping up so it’s been very aggressive,” Weiskamp said. “Because it’s only two and half years post-bond issue and all those projects had to be designed first, out to bid, then construction.”

The district said ongoing pandemic-related supply chain issues hit everything from roofing to doors, and now labor shortages have slowed Northwest’s and Robinson’s completion. Crews have done construction on what’s known as “core” spaces first so they can accommodate classes and curriculum and less-used spaces are left to be completed later.

“The areas that are maybe not finished are areas that won’t have a significant impact the first few weeks of school,” Weiskamp said.

Last week, the superintendent said Robinson’s core areas need more time to get done, prompting the decision to push the Robinson start date back to August 29.

As for what students and parents should expect come Monday for those schools set to open on time or during renovations, the district said ongoing construction in buildings is not new or unique, but safety remains top of mind.

“You can walk into a brand new building like Lincoln Northwest and you can walk into our oldest building in Lincoln High and the finishes and level of care and upkeep are the same,” Weiskamp said.

The district also said the smaller school populations at Robinson and Northwest for their first year are a good thing. Students won’t occupy as much space and renovations and construction can continue to work around them.

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