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UNEVEN FLOOR SETS BACK WINDERMERE ADDITION

A second-story classroom addition at Amherst's Windermere Boulevard Elementary School, scheduled for completion last fall, might not be available this school year.

The construction delays originated with an uneven floor slab.

Mark A. Whyle, the district's director of administrative services, said a self-leveling compound, used to smooth out the rough concrete surface, failed to adhere in some places.

"It began cracking and coming off in chunks," Whyle said. "Because we didn't know why it wasn't sticking, we couldn't go on with the job."

He said workers took up the pieces that didn't adhere, repoured one of the areas and are waiting to see if the second attempt succeeds.

An investigation seems to eliminate incorrect preparation or temperature differentials, Whyle said, noting that the cause could be as simple as dirt or grease on the concrete base.

Workers took particular care, "over and above the normal requirements," in repouring the compound, Whyle said. Once officials are certain it will not crack or crumble, the job can be completed.

"It's frustrating," said Whyle, who has been studying the situation with Foit-Albert Associates, the project's architects, and Ciminelli Cowper, the construction manager.

"My guess is that (the addition) will not open until fall," he said.

The 12,000-square-foot addition -- which contains six classrooms, as well as multipurpose and special-education rooms -- is part of an $8.1 million districtwide capital construction and renovation project that was largely completed last fall.

Other district improvements include a three-story high school addition containing new classrooms and a library-media center, a kitchen and cafeteria expansion at Smallwood Drive Elementary School, and lighting upgrades at the middle and elementary schools.

The Windermere addition might be on hold, but much of the work is finished, Whyle said, noting that walls are up and the lights, switches and even clocks have been installed. Besides floor coverings, walls must be painted and cabinets installed.

While the situation has created some inconvenience for the Windermere staff, the school has not delayed or discontinued any programs, according to Principal Nora J. Trincanati.

She said teachers are flexible and willing to "travel" if they do not have their own rooms.

As an example, she said enrichment teacher Paula Hackspacher can hold a mini-course of 8 to 10 pupils in the small room she occupies, but must visit other classrooms to conduct the larger thinking-skills program.

As of this year, the school's science lab was converted to a classroom, so instead of students coming to the lab, their teachers must take the lab materials to regular classrooms, Trincanati said.

Though the Windermere staff is working in what Trincanati called "cramped quarters," the principal is willing to give the project whatever time is necessary.

"We want it to be done correctly, so nobody wants to rush the process," she said.

Whyle said the district has not incurred any additional expense as a result of the leveling compound's failure to adhere to the concrete. An initial outlay of $67,000 covered making the floor slab level.

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