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This is the main entryway for the new Yelm Middle School under construction — as seen on Thursday, July 30.

Looking from outside the 6-foot tall security fence that surrounds the perimeter of the Yelm Middle School rebuild project, it’s pretty clear FORMA Construction — the general contractor and construction manager for the project — and its subcontractors are making significant headway. 

Sections of framing, walls and the foundation of the new school have been put into place as workers start framing the second story of the new school’s classroom wing.

The school is taking shape. But while they’ve made progress, project leaders estimate the project is about 16 percent complete. 

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Keith Michel, FORMA senior project manager, discusses the progress of the new Yelm Middle School now being constructed. He spoke from the construction site on Thursday, July 30.

They only have about another year until the project is scheduled to be substantially completed. The YMS rebuild is currently on time and expected to cost about $5 million less to construct than what the guaranteed maximum allowable cost initially stated, according to bond project manager Kasey Wyatt. 

“We’re definitely pleased with our progress. We’re building successfully,” senior project manager Keith Michel said. 

Project leaders allowed the Nisqually Valley News onto the site Thursday, July 30, for a tour and project update. On the sweltering-hot weekday, about 30 workers were at the site assembling, moving and configuring framing. 

The project is now entering its fifth month of construction. Once the school is complete, Yelm Middle School students and staff will move into the new facility around fall 2021. 

Around that time, Southworth Elementary staff and students will move into the old Yelm Middle School. Both school populations will be located on the same campus for the 2021-2022 school year while the old Southworth Elementary is being demolished and a new facility is built. 

Demolition of some of the old bus facilities located on the northeast side of campus, the 7.5-acre site where the new middle school is set to go up, happened in March and April. Phase 2 of the project, which is the construction of the building, is currently ongoing. 

On Thursday, a towering 100-foot tall crane was busy lifting stacks of panelized wall as well as floor and roof trusses to the second story of the classroom wing. Just two men were behind the woodwork to assemble the panels. 

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Dan Tonsgard, FORMA superintendent of construction, tours the new Yelm Middle School construction site on Thursday, July 30.

“Pretty much two people built this whole thing,” Michel said. 

The project is largely divided up into five zones, Michel said, which include classroom wings A and B, the administrative wing, the gymnasium wing and the auxiliary wing. 

Construction has largely been focused on the classroom wings with much of the foundation laid down for the administrative and gymnasium wings. 

FORMA’s mason contractor, Keystone Masonry, is expected to begin work this month on forming and installing the concrete masonry units that will be slabbed 38 feet tall around the gymnasium. 

Wyatt said there hasn’t been any major effect from the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis, nor from the recent announcement from Thurston County’s health officer warning school districts to keep students away from in-person instruction. 

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This is the main electrical room on the site of the new Yelm Middle School now being constructed — as seen on Thursday, July 30.

Contractors are on a set schedule and having no students on campus this upcoming fall isn’t expected to impact them.

The view of Mount Rainier from the ground of the construction site is already breathtaking enough. But from the second floor of the new Yelm Middle School? It could be potentially one of the best vantage points in the Nisqually Valley. 

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Classroom area "B" is well under way at the new Yelm Middle School, as seen on Thursday, July 30.

“It’s going to look really good,” Michel said. 

It’s estimated next March that the on-site workforce could top 100 employees as they begin work on sheet rock and walling. Roofing on the current section of school is expected by this fall. 

Construction by the Numbers

• 400,000 — the number of feet of lumber the new Yelm Middle School will be constructed out of. FORMA Construction currently has a little over half that amount on site. 

• 1,800 — The number of cubic yards of concrete poured on the project’s foundation. If that was a standard 4-foot wide sidewalk, it would be almost 7 miles long. To date, 800 of those yards have been poured. 

• 16 — the percent of completion project leaders estimate the Yelm Middle School rebuild is at.

• 11 — the number of months expected before the project is deemed substantially complete. 

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