School opening pushed back

Published 1:31 pm Saturday, July 13, 2013

WINDSOR—When the sun shines, construction makes progress on the future Georgie D. Tyler Middle School in Windsor. But when it rains — and there’s been quite a bit of it lately — work is delayed. All these starts and stops have compelled the Isle of Wight County School Board to postpone the opening to fall 2014. The original opening was the first week of January 2014.

“It’s kind of a mixed bag. Construction work has been going very well, and we’re pleased with the quality of construction and the efforts of the contractor,” said Dr. Phil Jepson, executive director Human Resources/Leadership Development and Operations for Isle of Wight County Schools.

“The problem we have is no one can control the weather,” he continued. “There have been quite a few abnormal days.”

What Jepson was referring to was abnormal inclement weather for each month, said Mike Cardwell, construction manager for Vanir Construction Management Inc.

Ritchie-Curbow Construction Inc., of Williamsburg, was awarded the contract for building the new school, named after a local educator. The company is also responsible for tearing down the Windsor Middle School next door.

“Each month is allowed days for inclement weather when construction can’t work on the critical path,” he said, adding that 33 days from October through March have been reviewed, and the other 22 are being examined.

An example of the excessive rain that Cardwell gave was from a couple of weeks ago when a rain gauged measured an inch falling within 40 minutes, and there was another 2/10th of an inch later on. When there’s more than 1/10 of an inch that can halt work.

One good thing, he added, is that at this stage the sun dries things out quickly and enables the crews to keep working.

When Cardwell recently spoke to The Tidewater News, he said he was doubtful the construction deadline could be met.

“At this point with this project, we’ve probably had anywhere from 45 to 65 days of inclement weather since Oct. 4, 2012,” Jepson said. “Because of that, there’s been some huge issue of staying on the original timeline.”

All the decision-makers on the project have accepted not to make a quick move in March or April of next year.

Jepson said transitioning at that time could be disruptive to teachers and students as they’re preparing for Standards of Learning tests.

“So counterproductive,” he added.

This decision takes the pressure off the contractor and subcontractors.

Then there’s still the matter of tearing down the Windsor Middle School, so taking care of that next summer is a safety factor.

Further, there’s also what Jepson called a punch list of things to be completed, such as the installation of furniture and equipment.

“It’s much better educationally and practically to wait for another year,” he said, “We don’t see it’ll be a big difference in costs. We don’t start getting billed until the school’s ready for occupancy.”

The cost for the new school is $19.3 million, and Jepson added that monies have been added for contingencies.