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More of Washington Elementary visible as part of summer project

  • Earth and grass berms that used to go up about the bottom third of the exterior walls at Washington Elementary School in Charles City have been removed, based on a security and safety recommendation. Work is now being done to clean up the uncovered walls to match the other exterior parts of the building. Press photo by Bob Steenson

  • Earth and grass berms that used to go up about the bottom third of the exterior walls at Washington Elementary School in Charles City have been removed, based on a security and safety recommendation. Work is now being done to clean up the uncovered walls to match the other exterior parts of the building. Press photo by Bob Steenson

By Bob Steenson, bsteenson@charlescitypress.com

Washington Elementary School in Charles City is getting a new streamlined look with the removal of dirt and grass that used to cover the bottom third of the building almost everywhere except the entrances.

Workers removed the dirt recently and are now starting the process of cleaning up the concrete underneath to match the top part of the walls that had not been covered.

The work is being done based on a state construction team recommendation, said Charles City District Communications Director Justin DeVore.

The Iowa Association of School Boards collaborates with Estes Construction to offer school districts the Iowa Construction Advocate Team (ICAT), according to the association’s website. It combines resources from the school district, community, finances, designer and construction in one team to evaluate facilities and projects.

“Somebody comes through and looks at all of our buildings, all of our campuses, with a fresh set of eyes and outlines things that need to happen,” DeVore said.

“This was one of the safety and security elements of Washington Elementary School that they highly recommended that, when we have time, we remove the berms around the building,” he said.

The berms provided “really easy access” to get on the roof, DeVore said, as well as other safety and security concerns.

“In a 21st century world, with the berms there, there are a lot of things that can happen, and so the ICAT report recommended that we take them out when we have the resources to do so,” he said.

The project has generated some comments on social media, including speculation by some that the berms were put in originally to provide tornado protection to the building.

“We were a little surprised by the reaction. We didn’t really think this was going to be a huge deal,” DeVore said.

“This was an architectural feature from the 70s,” he said. “This is not a tornado-proofing a building. The berms do not tornado-proof a building.”

He said there is still work to be done cleaning up the uncovered parts of the building.

“This is a summer project and that gives us time when students aren’t around to do it, to make noise, to get pressure washers out there, to do what we need to do to make it be invitational,” he said.

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