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Natrona County School District officials say they want to know why the new Southridge Elementary School in Casper won’t open in time for the start of the 2013-14 academic year.

Senior project manager Garvin Westhoff of W.N. McMurry Construction Co. alerted the Natrona County School District Board of Trustees at their meeting on Monday night that multiple snowstorms in April pushed back the school’s completion date to late August. School starts Aug. 19.

Dennis Bay, the district’s executive director of business services, said Friday that school officials were presented with the new timeline Thursday night and were stunned to find that the scheduled opening date was now Oct. 18.

“This took us by surprise,” Bay said. “We were quite shocked when we got all the way through this schedule and found out that the last portion of the building won’t be cleaned until Oct. 18.”

Reason unclear

The reason for the even longer timeline is unclear, Bay said.

“This is something that we’ll be digging into,” he added.

The board requested that W.N. McMurry Construction provide an updated construction timeline by Friday.

Students can’t move in until the entire building is ready, Bay said, adding that the city of Casper won’t give a certificate of occupancy until then. Much paving and landscaping also must be finished, he said.

The students will remain at the old Westwood Elementary School building, Bay said.

Legal counsel necessary

Bay said it’s not yet clear whether W.N. McMurry Construction Co. will be responsible for any damages. He said district officials will have to consult with their legal counsel.

“We don’t want to do that if at all possible,” Bay said. “We want to work through this stuff. And had we not had a place for the kids; i.e., if we were having to rent space for this school outside of a district-owned facility, it would definitely be a little more challenging. But thank goodness we have the ability to keep those kids at Westwood.”

Officials have expressed concerns about both the timeline and the quality of the construction. For those reasons, the Wyoming School Facilities Commission has agreed to pay an architect to visit the site daily, rather than the typical weekly visit, Bay said. Since last week, the architects have been checking work daily, including the finishes, plumbing, mechanical and electrical systems.

“We want to make sure that we stay on schedule and that the quality of the building is being addressed,” Bay said. “Having somebody up there once a day ensures that the contractor is being held accountable.”

Westhoff, with W.N. McMurry Construction Co., said Friday that he would await commenting until he’s discussed the schedule with district officials.