The first day of classes at Starr Elementary School in Grand Island, Nebraska was an exciting time for students and staff. This past August, 500 eager young learners and their teachers officially christened a brand new, beautiful school.
School construction projects are a specialty at Lacy. Starr Elementary is the latest in a series of educational facilities we have built in the region. We take pride in continually keeping up with the latest trends in school construction. Over our 70 years in business, we’ve watched libraries become media centers with computer stations and fiber optic cable taking precedence over shelf space. We’ve seen multi-purpose space become more important due to its value in enhancing the usefulness and extending the longevity of our schools. Today, every space—from the classroom to the cafeteria to the auditorium to the playground—is brighter, safer, more flexible, and more wired.
Starr Elementary is an archetype for a modern elementary school, financed by an $18 million bond issue Grand Island voters approved in early 2015. Construction started August 1 of that year and was finished July 15, 2017—on schedule and within budget. Located at 1800 South Adams Street, the school boasts 80,000 square feet of cutting edge design and the latest in technology from its fiber-optic wiring to its HVAC system.
Our project manager for the Starr Elementary project was Chris Wissing, assisted by project superintendent Martin Evans. We worked with architect Brad Kissler, AIA of Cannon Moss Brygger Architects; and Derek Kotschwar, P.E. and Tom Ernst, P.E. of Engineering Technologies, Inc. for the mechanical and electrical engineering.
What students and staff see when they enter the new school is a huge commons area where they can eat and socialize between classes. It’s comfortable and colorful and is adjacent to a large gym designed to accommodate both physical education classes and assemblies (the space features retractable telescopic seating to maximize flexibility). They see roomy 900-square-foot classrooms. The state-of-the-art media center includes essential educational technology from computer stations to a large flat-screen television system allowing projection of media from videos to presentations to student work and more.
From our point of view, the school’s unique features include architectural precast wall panels; 44-foot laminated wood beams; and rubber flooring in the gymnasium and the corridors. Attractive and resilient rubber tile has become an increasingly popular flooring option. Although it can have a higher initial purchase price than vinyl tile, many rubber flooring materials have a “no-wax” surface, which reduces their long-term maintenance costs. Environmental factors have also contributed to rubber tile’s popularity, as they are composed of recycled tires, which can help schools fulfill sustainability goals.
The building’s design prioritizes safety for the students and staff. The school has lock-down doors to prevent outside entry, an intruder alarm that seals off areas of the building, and security cameras. Additionally, four classrooms were built to serve as storm shelters. Outfitted with doors to cover windows, they are structurally built to withstand a tornado.
Lacy Construction is proud to have employed several innovative technologies to accomplish project goals. For starters, we used our Ligchine screed to pour the large floors and paving. The Ligchine runs via GPS on the exterior and can also be fitted to run off of a laser on the interior.
Additionally, we used some innovative software—Oracle’s “Submittal Exchange”—to digitally manage the project. All submittals, RFIs, ASIs, proposal requests and punch lists were distributed and tracked electronically using this web-based system to save time, paper, and mailing expenses. Bottom line? According to Oracle, we saved 22.7 trees, 4,715 shipping days, and $39,114 worth of shipping expenses.
The Lacy team is committed to the highest quality workmanship on every project. But we have to admit, schools are unique. We “chalk it up” to the fact that schools are important buildings to our students—and so we put a little heart and soul into everyone we build.
Terry Brown, vice chairman of the Grand Island school board, was delighted after an official tour of Starr Elementary before it opened. “It was a team effort—from the bond process to finding the right spot, and then building the right school,” Brown said. “This is a very nice school.”