Exterior construction of the eight-classroom addition on the southeast corner of Hays Middle School is coming to the finishing stages.

The addition will be paid for in part by a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Cost of the project has been estimated at $2,779,464, with USD 489 paying $1,410,437.

Crews are finishing the exterior brick work, HMS Principal Craig Pallister said.

"They're running all the electrical and venting for heating and air conditioning ducts up in the ceiling," he said.

The lines will be extended to geo-thermal wells.

One geo-thermal well was drilled early last fall as a test and to make sure the underground formations were right.

Drilling could start soon on an additional 20 to 30 geo-thermal wells.

Pallister said crews have worked with the school's schedule in getting the work done, and no instruction time has been lost.

The addition is being built to FEMA specifications and will serve as a storm shelter for students and staff.

"All of the cement blocks out there have steel running down them," Pallister said. "Then they fill all those holes with cement after (they) put steel in."

The brick veneer exterior is an extra layer that makes it a little bit stronger.

The winter weather has caused some delays, but construction should be less than a week behind schedule, and workers hope to make that up.

"Looking at the length of the project, they're still shooting for July 1," Pallister said.

Decisions about the interior such as wall color, carpets and restroom materials were made early.

They will be the same as those in the 7,500-square-foot pre-engineered metal building that was added to the northwest corner of the school in 2012. That $752,600 addition has six classrooms and two restrooms.

There'll be student lockers in the hallways, but Pallister isn't sure yet what grade level will be using them.

Next year's class schedule won't be finalized "until all of the budget decisions are made for the district, (and I know) what staff we will have here."

He does know every room of the new addition will have students in it for as many class hours as possible.

"We want to recoup as much of the money from new facilities weighting, if it's still in there, as we can," Pallister said of the state aid.

Passing periods between classes were extended to four minutes this year, so students should have no problem getting around the building.

More space is needed at the middle school after the board of education closed Kennedy Middle School at the end of the 2011-12 school year.

This year's head count enrollment is 584 students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades. Administrators project there could be nearly 800 students in the middle school by the 2016-17 school year.