By Dustin Luca
---- — ANDOVER — Just days after a successful Town Meeting vote, a ceremony moved the Bancroft Elementary School construction project through one critical milestone and on to another.
A topping off ceremony, celebrating the installation of the building’s final piece of steel before other work commences, was held between the current and future Bancroft Elementary Schools yesterday morning.
The event was “a celebration of the workers who are building this building,” Tom Deso, School Building Committee chairman, said. “Many of you are here today. Many more won’t even be here for several months to come.”
To celebrate, construction crews raised a white beam signed by Bancroft teachers and students, as well as town officials and school administrators, into place on the corner of the school’s gymnasium.
Topping off ceremonies are a Scandanavian tradition that mark when the outer hull of a building is finished, Bill Endicott, project manager with construction firm Skanska, said.
“They’d take a tree, a piece of the forest — buildings were made out of wood back then — as a signal to the gods, if you will,” he said.
Today, buildings with steel frames raise the final beam, decorated with the national flag and, in this area, a small evergreen tree to honor the historical tradition, Endicott said.
The beam placed by crews yesterday was one of over 1,800 pieces installed in the last four and a half months, tallying up over 1.7 million pounds in steelwork, according to Deso.
“So far, 25,000 man-hours have gone into this building,” he said, “and we’re 25 percent done.”
The next milestone in the project is when the building becomes weather-tight, meaning every exterior wall, window and portion of the roof is finished and sealed, according to Endicott. Officials expect to reach that point towards the end of the summer.
That’s when the $5.7 million raised by Special Town Meeting on Monday will start going to work.
Once the building is air-tight, that’s “when we’re able to really, in earnest, begin the finishes inside the building — your paint, your drywall, your finished flooring, mill work,” Endicott said. “Those are some of the contracts that haven’t been awarded for, obviously, budget constraints. Now we’re in a position where we can move forward with those.”
The gym is being built so that the portion of the beam signed by community members will face and be visible to those in the gym for the life of the building, according to Endicott.
“Usually, it gets buried and is somewhere you’ll never see it,” he said. “[The beam at Bancroft] will remain in place as a memorial to this event long after the building is complete and they’re using it.”
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