Smith River's long wait will end very soon, at last

Nearly six months after construction was finished, Smith River School's brand new gymnasium will finally get its maple floor.

The material for the new floor is expected to arrive at the school next Monday, according to Mike Jurkovich, owner of Eureka Floor Carpet One. In an e-mail to Del Norte Unified School District, Jurkovich wrote that the floor would be installed starting Dec. 9.

It will take 10 to 14 days before the floor can be installed, according to district Superintendent Don Olson.

"If you put in a hardwood floor, the wood has to typically sit for two weeks to acclimate to the moisture that's in the area where it's going to be applied," he said. "It's the same procedure they would do for any home as well."

Community members, students, parents, teachers and staff began planning and saving for a new gym about nine years ago. The school held its 2013 eighth-grade graduation in the 10,000 square-foot structure in June, but due to the moisture content in its concrete foundation, workers couldn't lay the new floor in time, Principal Paige Swan said then.

Since school started in September, the girls basketball and volleyball teams have continued to play games at Smith River Baptist Church because the new gym lacked a floor, Swan said.

Instead of counting down the days to a holiday break, the school's website shows 42 days until the gym's ribbon-cutting ceremony. Swan said he hopes to have the event in January.

"I plan to meet with everyone, (including) the flooring company, and try to figure out exactly what it looks like as far as an end date so we can plan that ceremony once the wood arrives," he said Friday. "Until the wood is here we're dead in the water. We can't really put together a timeline."

The gym floor will be made up of the concrete foundation and a moisture barrier, corrugated rubber, plywood and the finished maple flooring, Swan said.

"You would never think that there would be that many layers in the finished floor," he said. "That's why we had to put down the moisture barrier. Our readings were still above the threshold for a warranty."

In August, the Board of Trustees approved a recommendation to seal the foundation before installing the floor. The cost for the moisture barrier was $25,000, Olson said.

It's possible that the humidity levels in the gym's foundations would never have dropped to allow the floor to be installed without a moisture barrier, Olson said. He referred to a new type of cement testing required by the California Division of State Architects and said it has been a problem throughout the state.

"They've put in place a new test where they drill a core into the cement and (send) a probe down in there and measure the moisture," Olson said, adding under the previous testing system, the foundation would have passed. "We went to the high school and tested concrete that's 50 years old and it doesn't pass the tests."

In the future, Olson said he would make it the contractor's responsibility to mitigate moisture issues in a building's cement foundation.

"That language wasn't in the contract so the district was left holding responsibility to make the floor usable. That's why we got stuck with the extra $25,000," he said. "This is something no one had foreseen."

Smith River's new gymnasium project began with countless fundraisers that raised $400,000. A $203,000 grant from the S.H. Cowell Foundation and a $60,000 donation from the Smith River Rancheria also helped.

The project received a huge boost in 2008 when Del Norte County voters approved the $25 million Measure A school bond initiative.

The building's groundbreaking ceremony took place in July 2012, about two weeks after the school district accepted a $2.5 million construction bid from Ausland Group of Grants Pass.

Once the floor is installed it will have to be sanded and finished, Olson said. The floor will also have to be painted and the bleachers installed, he said.

Swan said Smith River School is currently in the process of building a new trophy case for the gym and installing three-dimensional signing in the lobby. The new gym will also feature a list of everyone who worked hard to make the gym possible.

"We're trying to coordinate all the signs going up, the trophy case going in and this floor. It's quite an undertaking because we don't want anything in anyone's way," he said.

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