New Grayson school slips further behind schedule

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By Ben Bomberger, Reporter

INDEPENDENCE — Bad news continues for the Grayson School Board regarding the new school under construction in the western end of the county.

Bill Ring, clerk of the works for the school's building projects, dropped the bomb during the school board's meeting May 12 — the new projected completion date is now February 2010.

Just weeks ago, the contractors told the board that Grayson Highlands School would be complete in December, allowing the school division ample time to furnish and staff the facility so it could open for the second semester of the 2009-10 school year.

According to Ring, progress is continuing at the site, but the weather continues to wreak havoc on what crews can do.

Ring read the board members a letter from contractors Vannoy & Sons, directed to Pinnacle Architecture, that said 82 calendar days have been lost through March.

The letter notes that the original completion date was expected on Nov. 14, 2009, but that has since been pushed back to Feb. 6, 2010.

The contractors wrote that they were confident that — with a coordinated effort with the architects — the December deadline could still possibly be met.

While it wasn't a guarantee, it was a declaration to do everything possible to make it happen.

What the expected date of completion, asked School Board Member Shannon Holdaway.

In the school board's monthly packet, a letter from the architects listed the completion date as Feb. 12, 2010.

That letter also said 99 work days had been lost due to weather, including 21 lost in February.

Holdaway questioned that, considering there were only 20 “working days” that month.

He added that significant progress has been made on the site, and that he was much happier each time he passed the location, but a firm completion date needed to be decided on.

Holdaway also asked for Ring to get involved in determining if a missed work day was considered a “lost day” or not.

If the school is not ready to open for the second half of the school year, it will hurt not only the school system's budget, but also the county's. The school board has budgeted $377,000 in savings as a result of closing Bridle Creek Elementary and Mount Rogers Combined for half a school year — which would depend on Grayson Highlands School being open to take those students.

While the supervisors may ask the school board to return $634,000, the majority of that would not be available if the new school is not ready to open for at least half a year.

In the letter from Pinnacle Architects, Frank Williams stated: “Mr. Vannoy promised he would endeavor to deliver the building in December of 2009. Hopefully that will still happen, I believe the worst of the weather is behind us.”

Crews may begin working some Saturdays to make up lost time. The steel framework is almost complete, and roofs are being put on, Ring said.

One last concrete slab has yet to be poured, though Ring said it was scheduled for later in the week if the weather cooperates.

The renovations and additions at Fries Middle School continue to move along, Ring said.

When asked if many days had been missed at the Fries site, Ring said no.

The difference is that contractors have work they can do inside the school building on days the weather is bad.

Some days have been missed as a result of having to move a water and sewer line, and a few more are being lost as the contractors attempt to solve the problem of unstable soil at the site.

When the previous building was demolished and the site was filled in, Ring said it was not compacted, making it unstable.

The contractors are looking at three proposals to fix the problem:

• take fill material out and backfill with the same material, this time compacting it.

• take out the unstable soil and backfill with gravel.

• haul the unstable soil away and replace with good soil.

Other than the unstable soil, Ring said the site work is going quite well.

The cafeteria was scheduled to close a few weeks early, allowing the contractors to begin renovations.

Fries students will obtain food from Providence Elementary for the remainder of the school year.

Ring said everything appears to be on track at Fries, and is confident the deadline of April 2010 will be met.