Friday, April 23rd, 2010
By Janie Southard
St. Marys students Junior Builders
  ST. MARYS - "Progress happens fast" is one student's assessment of the new 6-12 school building nearing completion just north of town.
"We come out to the site once a month, since October, and it's really amazing how things change in that time," Memorial High School senior Abbey Craft said. "It was really nice when we came out one day and the stairs to the second floor were there."
Craft is one of 16 junior high and high school students chosen by their respective principals to join the Junior Builders group, sponsored by Gilbane Builders, site manager at the new school complex.
Chad Stevers, Gilbane's project manager, said this is the second Junior Builders program his company has arranged.
"We really enjoy having the kids here. We have a lot of experts in their areas on this site so the kids have a good opportunity to learn," Stevers said. "Plus the guys (builders) are reminded that we're not just building a building; it's a place for kids to grow and learn."
Early in the project, Gilbane hosted a meeting where the students got first-hand information from the workers on the components that make up the new building.
"It was interesting because some of the guys had been students in that same building 10-15 years ago. That makes it personal for the students," Stevers said, adding most of the tradespeople are local to the area (within 30 minutes away).  
At a recent meeting of the Junior Builders, the students divided into four teams to figure bids on a classroom, including HVAC, plumbing and lighting fixtures - the whole works.
In one of the two on-site Gilbane trailers, members of Team One - Craft, Justin Pietrzak, Rob Sudman and Kristen Vehorn - figure the exact area of a two-tiered sloping ceiling. Stevers helps them calculating cost per square foot.
The bids were opened later during a pizza lunch to see which team came closest to the real estimated cost for the classroom. Remarkably, Team Four's bid was a mere $6.60 below the professional bid calculation.
"That's impressive," Stevers
said over the whoops of Team Four, comprised of Courtney Hisey, Luke Leffel, Madison Miley and Austin Tester and leader Ryan Walters, superintendent with Gilbane.
Other Junior Builders include: Grant Broski, Danielle Patten, Derrick Pietrzak, Frank Moots, Alexa Sutton, Jamie James, Molly Albert and Kaili Patterson.
All Junior Builders will serve as tour guides at the school's open house 10 a.m. until noon May 15. The building is set to be complete in August and school starts Sept. 7.
"This has been a great opportunity for our students," Superintendent Mary Riepenhoff said of the Junior Builders. "Gilbane has been outstanding in working with the students, using humor while focusing on the details of a project like this. On the flip side, our teachers and administrators have been great about catching the students up with what they've missed on these Friday mornings."
Craft, a senior, said she's very happy for the kids who will attend the new school.
"I'll graduate this year so I'll never go here as a student. But maybe someday I can come back here and teach," said Craft, who plans to attend The Ohio State University to major in middle education.
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