Pima Schools beginning $5.5 million in construction projects

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: The Pima Elementary School will receive a new 13-classroom building for K-2 while six of its former classrooms will be then utilized by the high school.

Will build a 13-classroom addition

Contributed Article

PIMA – What is going on at Pima Schools? Not since the construction of the six-room addition to the elementary school completed 10 years ago has there been so many contractors on campus in Pima. For the next four to eight months, it will be very busy. But, what are all these people doing?

First, Pointe Construction is in the process of performing a $130,000 restroom renovation project.  Years ago, it was determined by the health department that some of the restrooms at the elementary school didn’t meet the guidelines. In response, the restrooms at the library, and elementary school are being completely refurbished.  Funding for this project is provided by a Building Renewal Grant from the Arizona School Facilities Board (SFB). 

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Pima Schools will be getting a facelift over the next eight months and a new 13-classroom building.

Second, Edge Construction is replacing the roofs on the elementary school buildings and parts of the high school. This includes taking the tiles off the old high school and Stan Smith Gym to replace the membrane underneath. This is a $1.2 million project also funded primarily by an SFB grant. The district is contributing about $5,000 to offset the cost of keeping the tile roof instead of switching to a cheaper alternative that would alter the historic look of the building. 

Third, TSG Construction is working to complete the demolition of the old elementary school on Main Street. Condemned by the state almost 20 years ago and left to deteriorate, the facility has become a hazard and needs to be removed. Originally constructed in 1922, it was the school in Pima at a time when high school students all went to Safford. Since 2008 when the district office moved out of the building, the district has not been able to allocate any funding for maintenance and it has fallen into a very poor condition. In 2015, a cost assessment was done to figure out what it would cost to bring the building back, but it was determined the cost would be extremely high and the building still wouldn’t meet the needs of today’s school program. An emergency needs grant for approximately $100,000 has been secured from SFB to cover the cost of removing the building. Work on the project will begin shortly.

Fourth, TSG will also be replacing and rerouting the storm drain running northeast from Main Street across the campus. The existing 24-inch corrugated steel pipe installed in the mid-60s is both in need of replacement and runs under the site where the new classrooms are to be constructed. The new line will do a better job of providing drainage to the area and reduce runoff through the lot north of the school as well. The district has secured another $100,000 grant from SFB for this issue. 

Fifth, the district is working on an energy savings program to replace outdated inefficient lighting and thermostats. The project will be funded with the money the district will save on utility costs in the future. 

Finally, TSG will be starting construction of a 13-classroom, 16,000-square-foot building to be located north of the football field. Pima is growing and there is not enough space in the current facility to house all the students and those projected to move to the area in the next five years. The new facility will be designed with kindergarten through second grade in mind and will include a playground for the little kids. The six classrooms previously utilized by K-2 will then be used for high school classrooms.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: The new 13-classroom building will go in between the last construction of the six-classroom elementary school building and the Digger O’Dell Community Activity Center.

Funding for this project is split between three sources. Roughly a third – or $1.3 million – is coming from a loan the district will pay back over the next 10 years. This is similar to the school bonds used to fund building in the past, but it does not affect the local tax rate. The remaining $3 million is split between funding from the SFB and the capital reserve funds the district has built up in anticipation of the need to build new classrooms. This project will begin shortly and will take about eight months to complete. 

So, in total, a little more than $5.5 million in construction projects have been awarded. These projects are either underway or about to get started.  Once completed, Pima’s schools will have received a facelift and the addition of some much-needed space.  All the classrooms south of the ab created by the demolition will be high school classes, and everything north of the gap will be the elementary school. This means the high school will add some much-needed space as the building is done at the elementary school.

“Our primary goal is to ensure we can do a better job of meeting the needs of our students”, said Superintendent Sean Rickert.  “These are projects we began years ago that are finally coming to fruition. The fact that all this has come about in a way and at a time to provide a boost to the local economy is just icing on the cake.” 

Rickert also recognized the tremendous support and assistance the district has received from the town of Pima, especially Pima Town Manager Sean Lewis, and the support and attention provided by the Graham County Co-op. 

“Coordinating projects like this is somewhat complicated,” Rickert said, “and it is the support we receive from our community that makes it all possible.”

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