There is plenty of mud, fences and heavy equipment right now. But eventually, there will be plenty of new room at Madison County High School.

The high school is in the middle of a major renovation project, which will ultimately increase the school’s size by 45 percent, from 135,285 square feet to 195,986 square feet.

Madison County assistant superintendent Bonnie Knight says the MCHS renovation project, which is being handled by Charles Black Construction, is roughly 25 percent complete. And the projected opening date for the new facilities remains August 2014.

“We’re pouring the concrete walls and finishing all the footings for the basement level,” said Knight, regarding the current work. “…The rain has delayed us a little bit. We’ve had a little more rain than most construction projects we’ve seen the past couple of years. We ran into a little bit of a soil issue, but we’ve got beyond that. I’ve been told that once the concrete walls are poured, things will speed up after that.”

Rod Nix, project manager for Charles Black Construction, told school board members last week that 42.2 inches of rain has fallen onsite since the project began Dec. 15, with the company losing 65 work days due to the rain. He said the company is on an “aggressive schedule” to finish by next August. But he said a time extension might be needed if more work days are lost due to the weather.

The major renovation project includes 45 new classrooms. Knight noted that there will be a new ROTC suite, journalism lab, business lab, band room, choral suite, media center, administrative area, counseling area, cafeteria, kitchen, special ed area and new science labs.

Earlier this year, the school system learned that it had been awarded a $3.65 million grant to serve as a regional ag-industry college.

Thanks to the grant, the school will construct a 12,000-square-foot-building for ag classes, including classrooms for animal science, plant science, a multi-use ag lab and a biotech classroom.

The grant will have a domino effect on uses for other space at MCHS. For instance, the Career, Technical and Agricultural Education (CTAE) wing, which currently has two ag classrooms, will house a new welding suite.

“We’ll extend that (the old ag classrooms) and turn it into one big welding suite,” said Knight. “And that’s where we’ve gotten advice from Catepillar and really been able to specialize what the students will have access to in that area. We’ll also be able to move culinary arts down to the existing cafeteria. And we’re adding a health occupation suite that we don’t currently have.”

While the high school gym won’t be replaced, it will receive a cooling/heating system and a “facelift,” meaning it will receive a new roof — along with the entire current CTAE section — a paint job and a resurfaced floor.

“I know that new bleachers is a need and that’s on the bubble list,” said Knight. “If we’ve got money at the end of the project, we’re going to go back and look at some of those things.”

The primary structure at Madison County High School was built in 1970. And with old buildings, asbestos is a concern during renovation.

The school system has hired Branch Environmental Inc. to oversee the removal of asbestos from the CTAE wing this summer before renovations next summer.

“We knew there was asbestos in that CTAE wing that we’re going to renovate because we have asbestos inspections done on a regular basis,” said Knight. “And we had it contained, meaning there was no danger to anybody. It was either covered up or carpeted or contained in different ways. But with the renovations, we’ve got to get it out of there. So we plan to get it out of there this summer so that we can hit the road with renovations in that section next summer.”

Knight said the environmental firm is already working on the asbestos removal.

“They started June 3 and they’re supposed to be out of the high school by the end of June by the latest, and I’m thinking they may be out of there by Friday,” said Knight last week.

The estimated total cost of all MCHS construction is $22,923,524. Of this, $9,723,524 will be funded with local sales taxes. Another $13,200,000 is coming from the state and federal government. School leaders expect to have the construction paid off in 2029.

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