Holland Construction Services is working to help the Wolf Branch School District open their middle school building by the fall of 2021 after mine subsidence caused the district to close the building three years ago. The middle school, located at 410 Huntwood Road in Swansea, closed in 2017 after significant settlement caused by the collapse of an abandoned underground coal mine was discovered. The collapse resulted in cracking and buckling of floors and walls inside the building, forcing the school’s closure.
Swansea-based Holland Construction has started work on the $16 million replacement section and interior rehabilitation of the Wolf Branch Middle School. The cost will include construction of a new 44,000 square foot addition, as well as renovations to 18,000 square feet of the original part of the structure that remains.
Project Manager, Brian Dayton, said Holland has extensive experience in school construction projects with unique challenges such as this one. His team has spent the last several months working with the design team on the project and the school district to ensure plans move forward smoothly.
“We try to take a proactive approach to projects like this and early collaboration with the design team and the school district is an essential part of that,” said Dayton. “Our approach is to iron out any potential issues upfront before they come up in the field and that helps save our clients’ money and gives a more cohesive plan for the project. Our goal is to make this addition/renovation something students and faculty are excited to move into, and something the entire Swansea community can be proud of.”
Renovations will happen on the east side of the remaining building and will include new administrative offices, along with band and choir rooms. The new addition will feature a gym and locker rooms, a multipurpose room that will house the cafeteria and kitchen, a stage, and a media center/library. The new section will include poured, tilt-up concrete walls for the large volume spaces and load-bearing masonry construction for the locker rooms and kitchen area. When complete, the locker rooms will also function as a hardened storm shelter.
“Our board went through an extensive search before selecting Holland for this project and we chose them based on their reputation and experience building schools such as ours,” Superintendent Scott Harres said. “It’s exciting to see things move forward and we feel very confident in Holland’s ability to make this building safe again for our students and staff. The silver lining in all of this is that, with Holland’s help, we were able to really think about the needs of our teachers and students and include some modern and functional design features, such as the storm shelter, that will make this a very nice addition when complete.”
Harres said the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has completed mine remediation at the site and determined it to be safe for rebuilding. The IDNR will continue monitoring the site as needed in the future.