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Project on target despite wet spring, roadwork

CHAMPAIGN — As kids flooded into Dr. Howard Elementary School — currently housed at Columbia School, just north of downtown Champaign — for the first day of school Thursday, the future Dr. Howard along University Avenue continued to take shape.

The basic structure of the building can now be seen in the form of steel beams protruding from the foundation. And although work went slowly this past spring due to wet weather, the builders have been catching up and are on target for a June 15 completion date.

“Where we were at during the spring at Dr. Howard was compacting the grade and completing site utility work and pouring foundations,” Unit 4 capital projects manager Sandra Roesler said.

“All three of those things were really weather dependent, so we were slowed down in the spring. I just talked to the contractor yesterday, and they were able to make up some time that we lost in pouring foundations and on the steel framing; the steel framing is actually going in slightly better than we expected, so we’re looking really good.”

That completion date is vital for the districtwide construction project, because Edison’s sixth-graders will be moving temporarily to Columbia School next year, to make way for renovations at the middle school.

“We planned for an early substantial completion date at Dr. Howard to make sure we had plenty of time to locate staff from the Columbia building and make adjustments at Columbia so that Edison work can begin as planned,” Roesler said.

Dr. Howard is the first completely new building the district has erected since Carrie Busey was finished in 2012, one year after the new Booker T. Washington was finished.

Unlike other Unit 4 referendum projects, Dr. Howard started with a clean slate after the rubble of the old building was cleared. That has helped progress speed along.

“The team at Dr. Howard can make decisions independent of how it affects the school schedule, and that’s a tremendous advantage,” Roesler said.

One complication has been reconstruction work on streets surrounding the school, which are being gutted to improve stormwater management.

“With city streets being worked on, we really have to be careful about what size of equipment we’re bringing onto the site and coordinating deliveries of large pieces of equipment like pre-cast panels, steel framing, that had to be coordinated with the city to make sure that we could progress without delays,” Roesler said. “Both teams are looking at logistics with each other’s projects in mind.”

The next phase of the project will include the completion of steel-beam installation and the pouring of concrete on the second building’s second floor.

Meanwhile, Dr. Howard has begun school at its temporary Columbia digs, which Roesler thinks the staff has adapted well to while waiting excitedly for a brand-new building next summer.


Multimedia Specialist

Anthony Zilis is a multimedia specialist at The News-Gazette. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@adzilis).