When classes begin at the Sheridan School later this month, most remnants of the building's summer facelift will have been picked up and cleared away.
Smoothing over the construction's effects on the school's neighbors, however, might take more time.
A summer of noisy construction, work that began before dawn and lasted past dark, and what neighbors said were broken promises by the school has made for uneasy times in an area where school-neighbor relations once received high marks from both sides. Residents who live near the Van Ness school complained that the renovation work violated construction ground rules agreed to after nearly two years of negotiations, leading to a summer of angry phone calls, tense community meetings and resentment.
But with construction nearly finished, the two sides reached a precarious detente last week. At a meeting with nine area residents, Head of School Randy Plummer agreed to work on communication strategies to improve neighborhood relations and consider suggestions to give neighbors a role in the school's governance. Neighbors said they wanted to move forward, but still felt slighted by the events.
The renovation at the school, which has 215 students from kindergarten to eighth grade, mostly involved painting, carpet installation and knocking down walls to expand some classrooms.
The disagreements began in July, after construction on the project was delayed by 20 days when construction crews found asbestos in the building's internal structure. To make up for the lost time, crews began working long hours and on Sundays, violating the construction ground rules.
Neighbors complained that crews began working as early as 6 a.m., and continued long past their agreed-to 5 p.m. stopping point. It was an unpleasant summer, they said, of keeping kids inside, sleeping with the windows closed and swallowing their growing anger.
"We are saying, where is the trust, and how can we move forward without having a trust?" said Yoshimi Nishino, who lives across the street from the school. Nishino said she asked Plummer at one community meeting, "How would you teach your children about trust . . . if you're doing this?"
Another neighbor, Catherine Cooney, said the noise and asbestos kept her two children indoors for the summer. Had the school been more open about how disruptive the construction would be, she said, her family could have made other plans.
"It would give us some control over our environment," she said. "We could have left."
But the school also had little control over the circumstances of the construction, Plummer said, and now faces inconveniences of its own.
The asbestos delays meant having to change the opening of school, from Sept. 9 to Sept. 17.
A turning point for the construction came Sunday, Aug. 22, when the crew received a stop-work order. It was lifted the next day, after Plummer wrote a letter saying the construction crews would adhere to the set work hours.
Plummer said the problems were particularly troubling because the two sides had worked closely on construction ground rules. He said he hopes the relationship can be repaired, a burden that he said belongs on the school.
"We have to prove ourselves to them again," he said.