Work at school goes on despite rancor

Published 12:26 pm Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The real estate in Griffing Park has taken a bit of a hit in recent weeks, but it’s not from a bad economy or early foreclosures — it’s from a literal hit to the ground delivered by heavy construction equipment being operated there.

Tyrrell Elementary School and its campus are under construction as part of the $195 million PAISD bond program that was approved and passed in 2014 to enhance and improve all the schools in the Port Arthur district. N&T Construction is contracted to do the work at Tyrell; and a few trees may have fallen as a result of it.

“These streets are tearing completely apart, and then they bring in heavy equipment,” said Whalen Samuel, local resident whose household lies directly across the street from some of the construction work.

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Samuel’s concern about the recent construction revolved around the integrity of the neighborhood grounds, as well as a perceived lack of trust on the school board’s side.

“I don’t have a problem with guys doing their jobs, but they’re not doing what they said they were going to do — they’re not building a school, they’re building a parking lot.”

And in Samuel’s opinion, “There’s no way they’re going to get the concrete poured and finished by Aug 22.”

In response to the question of completion of the parking lots, Jim Beard, superintendent of N&T Construction, said, “We’re not contractually obligated to finish the lots by [Aug 22].”

Beard added that while he would like to complete the parking lots by the time school starts back up, “the rain has been messing it up.”

Beard was referring to the rainy weather that the Port Arthur area had been experiencing in the past week — a natural impediment for the concrete to set properly when pouring a lot.

Still, Beard was optimistic about at least getting part of the parking areas done by the first day of school. He was also fairly certain about getting the entire project done by Aug of 2017.

“The main part of the job is the addition to the school,” Beard said. “There will be a library media center, 20 additional classrooms, and a music hall.”

The new wing will be approximately 34,600 square feet and will be  in a two-story addition to the main school.

And, as much as the Griffing Park area is known for its plethora of large, overhanging trees that line its streets, some trees had to be brought down in order for the construction crews to do their jobs.

“There was no way to avoid the trees completely,” Beard said. “But we have given what consideration we can [for the trees].”

Beard made it clear that all reasonable effort was given for preserving as much of Tyrell’s natural grounds — and surrounding neighborhood — as possible.

He used a few maps to demonstrate the crews’ efforts to “wrap the [30ft] drive drop-off around a tree” instead of uprooting it, as well as rerouting certain pipelines to accommodate a better flow of current beneath the school grounds.

Ultimately, the planned additions, renovations, and improvements to Tyrell Elementary are something that Beard believed will benefit the school, students, and parents.

“This serpentine driveway,” Beard pointed out on a planned map, “will be to drivers’ advantage. This will help get them on school grounds without clogging the surrounding streets.”

Aug 22 is the first day of school for Port Arthur students.