When the 2021-22 instructional term begins, several schools in Fayette County will be operating under a new normal.
Tim Payton, director of operations for Fayette County Schools, said recently progress is being made on Phase 2 construction projects that have been ongoing since last summer at four Fayette County schools: Oak Hill and Midland Trail highs, and Fayetteville and Valley PK-8s.
The projects should be completed later this spring, Payton said. "It looks like we are on track to complete Midland Trail, Oak Hill and Valley in April and Fayetteville in May. Hopefully."
A $15.2 million overall project, which features $13.2 million in funding from the state School Building Authority and $2 million from Fayette County Schools, is being overseen by contractor Swope Construction Co. and its subcontractors and includes several upgrades to each building.
At Fayetteville PK-8, new administrative offices and a safe schools entrance are being built, as well as a new kitchen and cafeteria.
At Midland Trail High School, new administrative offices and a safe schools entrance will be complemented by a new life skills/PE classroom.
Two science labs are being renovated at Oak Hill High School, as is the auditorium. A new life skills/PE classroom, which is an auxiliary gym, is also being built.
At Valley PK-8, a safe schools entrance is being built, and career technical education spaces are being renovated into a cafeteria/warming kitchen for PK-K. Additionally, the first PK-K CTE space in the state is being constructed. As a separate project at Valley that is not part of the bigger renovation push, a playground was completed earlier, and another playground for older students is also in the works.
For several reasons, there have been some work delays in recent months. "We have had some delays due to rain, ice and snow, but we have also had some delays due to Covid-19," said Payton.
Managing the various construction programs at the same time as the educational delivery process continues has been challenging at times, Payton admitted.
"We have had to work around the construction a little bit in our schools," he said. "It has been a cooperative effort to ensure that everyone has unimpeded access to the building and the construction areas.
"The project superintendents and site superintendents from Swope Construction Company have been excellent to work with."
While acknowledging some delays, Superintendent Gary Hough says, "Everything's on target (to be operational) by the fall, no question," Hough said. "We'll be in good shape."
Looking to the future, the Meadow Bridge PK-12 Regional School is still in the design stage.
"The Meadow Bridge PreK-12 Regional School is at the end of the design phase," Payton said in early March. "McKinley Architecture and Engineering have been awarded the contract for the design of the school.
"We are hoping to go to bid soon to select the contractor."
The Covid-19 pandemic has added to issues occasionally associated with long-term construction projects.
"Covid-19 has caused delays in material delivery and construction," said Payton. "Building on to and renovating existing schools is never easy, but the pandemic has been both a help and a hindrance.
"When the buildings were empty we were able to move a little more quickly through some phases of the project, but we have also had to deal with all of the health and safety precautions of working on a construction site during a pandemic. It has been interesting, but we are almost there."
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