Montessori elementary set for May completion; September opening By Orlando Rodriguez orodriguez@islandernews.com St. Christopher’s Montessori School is steadily advancing toward its goal of housing all the levels of elementary education.

Carol Diaz-Castro, a parent chairing the school’s building committee, says the second floor addition to the existing school building is quickly taking shape.
“It’s moving along great,” Castro said. “The quality of work is excellent. We’re really pleased with the progress.”

Castro said the project will cost an estimated $400,000 and should be completed by May, with the new facilities ready for use by September. The additional second floor will give the school, which currently offers classes for children ages 2 ½ through the third grade, classroom space for grades four through six.

Moreover, the plan includes an elevator tower and a stairwell to connect the two floors.

Bruce Brockhouse and Associates, an architect firm based in Coral Gables, designed the modifications. Lahoud and Hardan won the contract to make them a reality.

The construction crew is nearly finished with the concrete and steel phase, Castro said. Within the past month, they have constructed the tie beam that holds up the second floor, and have also added masonry block. The final tie beam that holds up the roof was completed earlier this week. Next, the contractors will set the trusses atop the building, and the final roofing phase will commence.

Sheathing plywood will be added to the trusses, then the waterproofing and roof tiling will get underway.

Once completed, the roof will resemble the roof lines of the sanctuary of St. Christopher’s By-The-Sea Episcopal Church in front of the school, said Castro.

The first floor of the elevator tower is nearly done and is visible to the east. To the west lies the plywood “framework” that marks the final stages of the stairwell. Concrete has been poured into the formwork, which offers a temporary outline of the stairwell structure. The expansion plan also includes two covered walkways. One leads to the elementary building. The other leads from the south parking lot into the main office/parish hall building.

As the major exterior work winds down, the contractor will add the cover to the walkways. Castro says parents and staff are anticipating staying dry on rainy days.

The sequencing of the construction plan was prepared as to not to create too much stress in the allotted space. Castro said the existing school house has held up very well, and the expansion has proceeded pretty much without complications.

Twenty-five parking places have been displaced, but Castro says parents are showing a “positive attitude.” Many have opted to use the drop-off program that allows them to drop off their children to a waiting staff member, who leads the group back to school and saves the parents the hassle of trying to find a parking space in the morning.

Castro credits the contractors, Lahoud and Hardan, for their efficiency and efforts in keeping noise down to a minimum.

“They are wonderful; they don’t bother me at all,” added parish administrator Mary Sinisi. “They don’t swear and don’t curse. They’re very polite and don’t get in anybody’s way.”

Children In the first through third grades are taking classes in a trailer that was brought on to the property until the construction is completed. The younger children continue to take their classes in the rooms adjacent to the parish office. Despite the significant and often loud alterations, Castro says student life seems unfazed.

“Little kids are so resilient;” she said “They don’t complain. The construction seems not to have had any adverse effects on their education.” Overall, the vibe surrounding the school’s growth seems positive.

“I think that it’s going exceptionally well. The quality of the construction is excellent. I think that Lahoud and Hardan has done well by us by having the superintended work here every day. And I think they’ve been very clear with us and honest with us about their scheduling, about any problems that we’ve encountered. They’ve always been very conservative. All in all it’s been great. I’ve not heard one single complaint from parents or the church members, only encouragement,” said Castro, who for 10 years was a project engineer in the construction division of Island Developers Limited.