“I feel like we are on track.” Nederland education leaders ramp up school year preparation.

Published 5:42 am Friday, August 4, 2023

NEDERLAND — “I feel like we are on track. We speak with (construction manager) H.B. Neild everyday. We are on track and on schedule to open school Aug. 17.”

Nederland Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Stuart Kieschnick delivered that message to Port Arthur Newsmedia Thursday night following a special called school board meeting that included discussion of the ongoing $150 million in building and technology improvements bond project and concerns about the performance of construction designer IBI Architects.

Improvements to Langham, Helena Park, Highland Park and Hillcrest elementary campuses are expected to largely conclude within two weeks and open to students. At the same time, fifth grade students — who were previously taught on the middle school campuses — begin receiving instruction at the elementary campuses.

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“The grade level change will go as it is planned, with fifth grade being housed at the elementary schools,” Kieschnick said.

Some in the community have raised concerns about access and safety at the renovated campuses come Aug. 17, as active construction remains a visible feature throughout the district’s schools.

“There (will be) no concerns with kids and safety,” Kieschnick said. “Safety is our No. 1 concern. We think about safety before we even think about teaching. Those campuses will be a safe place for kids.”

During Thursday’s meeting Kieschnick asked a representative of H.B. Neild “are there any hotspots you are concerned about right now?”

He was told there are some concerns with cafeterias but the timeline remains strong.

The ramped up work schedule also included talk of late-night cabinetry delivery and installation that has and would include overnight and weekend work.

During discussion Thursday evening, school board members and the superintendent talked about a “source of anxiety” felt by teachers trying to drop off and set up classroom items amidst ongoing construction and general campus preparation.

“Some of the days are getting shuffled around because of the waxing and stuff like that, so now they have even less of an opportunity to go in and do what they need to do,” School Board President Micah Mosley said.

School board members also addressed upgrades to the football stadium, which includes massive press box work.

They were told preseason and regular season games would proceed without negative impact.

Following a lengthy closed session, school board members returned Thursday to address “consider, discuss, and take possible action regarding IBI Architects,” which was listed on the agenda.

School board vice president Kay DeCuir made a motion “that we move forward to direct our legal counsel regarding remedies for delay in design issues with IBI Architects.”

No other public comment was shared, and the present board members approved the motion unanimously.

An IBI Architects representative was not present during open session.

Concerns between the district and IBI Architects date back a few years.

During a mid-December 2020 school board meeting, an IBI representative spent a portion of his time delivering a mea culpa while promising better days ahead.

“You are very angry, dissatisfied,” he said. “I get that, but we’re not happy with what we did in the past. We are working very diligently to correct that problem.”