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Work resumes on elevator installation at West Babylon elementary school

The elevator installation project at Forest Avenue Elementary

The elevator installation project at Forest Avenue Elementary School in West Babylon is part of a nearly $30 million capital improvement bond passed in January 2015.  Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa Loarca

Work has resumed at Forest Avenue Elementary School in West Babylon on the installation of an elevator after construction stopped because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The elevator is being added to the two-story building to bring it in compliance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. Michele Psarakis, assistant superintendent for finance and operations for the West Babylon School District, said the work should have been completed last summer.

The project is part of Phase 5 of a nearly $30 million capital improvement bond passed in January 2015. The district is receiving $19.3 million in state aid toward the bond, and the district is responsible for $10.6 million. Psarakis said approximately $25 million of the bond has been spent.

The work delay spilled into the fall and winter after Hauppauge-based Municipal Testing Laboratory Inc. could not verify the integrity of the installation being done by Islandia-based Stalco Construction Inc. 

“So the testing lab and the construction managers had said there was no way that they could sign off on this work as safe knowing that children and staff would be using this elevator,” Psarakis said. 

Psarakis said construction managers met May 18 to prepare and resume work on the elevator, which is expected to be completed before the start of the school year.

The bond was funded to address electrical work, repave parking lots and add synthetic turf to the junior high school and high school. The district has seven schools, but work was not done at South Bay Elementary, which was rebuilt in 2011 after a fire gutted the building.

Patchogue-based BBS Architects, Landscape Architects Engineers was chosen as the architect, engineer and athletic fields designer for all construction work included in the bond. Both BBS and Stalco Construction did not return a request for comment.

During a January Board of Education meeting, school officials said BBS had concerns that the construction of the block walls for the elevator were not being done according to specifications. Based on the Hauppauge lab’s testing report, Stalco said it would make sure the demolition and new work meet industry specifications.

Once the installation is complete, Forest Avenue Elementary will be the fifth school in the district to have an elevator. For Marilyn Tucci, advocacy and outreach coordinator for the Suffolk Independent Living Organization, a Medford-based nonprofit for the disabled, that’s a good thing. 

“For a child that has some difficulty getting up a stairs, this makes things easier,” Tucci said.

Spruce up timeline

Phase 1

Turf field installed at West Babylon Junior High School and parking lots done at John F. Kennedy Elementary School

Phase 2

Interior work done at the junior high school. Turf field installed at West Babylon High School

Phase 3

Interior and exterior work done at Tooker Avenue Elementary School

Phase 4

Interior work done at senior high school

Phase 5

Interior and exterior work done at Santapogue Elementary School and Forest Avenue Elementary School

Source: West Babylon School District

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