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School projects progressing

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By Ben Bomberger, Reporter

INDEPENDENCE — One school is under construction in the western end of Grayson County, while another is ready to be renovated in Fries.

Frank Williams of Pinnacle Architecture updated the Grayson County School Board on the progress of both projects during the Nov. 10 regular meeting.

Pinnacle Architecture of North Carolina was the firm hired to design both the Grayson Highlands School near Volney and the remodeling of Fries Middle School.

“I’ve been to Grayson Highlands School at least once a week since it started,” Williams told board members. “It may not look like much is going on — but a lot is.”

The footers for the gym area and main wings are being dug, as well as trenches for the plumping pipes.

Earlier in the meeting, it was announced that Maintenance Supervisor Roy Anders had been named clerk of the works for the project and will be responsible for overseeing and documenting work as it progresses.

“I’m tickled to death that Roy has come on board,” said Williams. “It’s just natural for him to be there when we start installing the electrical and such… it’ll be good for him to know what’s going on and where things are.”

As the maintenance supervisor, Anders will be the one who works on the plumping and/or electrical lines once the school is complete.

While digging for the plumbing lines, Williams said the construction crew hit some unexpected rock and had to alter the direction of flow to help reduce the cost.

The good news for the school system is that the steel building is already on site, and should be going up within six weeks.

“It won’t be long before we see something in the air,” Williams told board members. Plans are to wait until the entire site is ready so that a crew can come in and work straight through.

“When that thing starts up, it’s gonna go up like a mushroom,” he said. “And quickly, they’ll be inside working.”

The architects have yet to finalize the turning lanes in front of the school. Williams said they are having a difficult time getting the Virginia Department of Transportation to finalize road plans because of requirements on setbacks from the new slowdown lanes.

He added that in North Carolina, the state’s department of transportation handles the work on the roads for schools, but in Virginia it does not.

On a positive note, Williams said the work crews are being “good neighbors” and he hasn’t heard any complaints from those who live nearby.

He said crews opted to hammer out the rock instead of blasting to keep from shaking any nearby houses.

“It’s a really nice looking site,” he said. “It’s on a good foundation.”

School Board Member Hobert Bailey questioned how far construction was behind schedule.

“Not at all,” Williams replied. “Even when we hit rock… we are still on track.”

When asked if that meant things were ahead of schedule, Williams also said no. Winter weather on the horizon could be the determining factor on whether things continue on track or fall behind.

“Weather is going to start determining more and more.”

Williams said that the project is on schedule as far as the contract mandating the school be complete in 450 days. The contractors will have to be ahead of schedule to open by Aug. 2009.

Sample panels of stone and brick will be on site soon for school board members to pick, as well.

On the other end of the county, the school system is working on plans to remodel Fries Middle School.

Williams said the project is out for bid and the state had already okayed the plans.

In addition, Grayson County Building Inspector James Moss has looked over the plans and they have been altered with his requested changes.

Additions to the plans include increasing the size of the kitchen and putting a new parking lot in the very bottom to hold about 20 cars.

Original plans only called for the kitchen to be updated, but School Board Chairwoman Wynn Combs asked for it to be expanded, as well.

Parking was also an issue, as well as parent pick-up locations, when the initial designs were shown to town residents.

Williams said the plan is to hopefully put a parking lot in the bottom level with a gently sloped road around the school building, up the right side of the gym, through the current underpass and back onto the main road.

Plans are for parents to pick up children near the underpass, allowing cars to wrap around the building and keep off the main roads.

Williams said those two items would be finalized and sent out as alternates to the original plan, with bids due by Dec. 16.

Other renovations planned at the school include new air conditioning in the gym, having all buildings tied together and increasing office space up front.

The front entrance will also be relocated, with a new awning placed over the door visitors must enter.

Plans are to move the school resource officer’s office to the current teachers’ lounge and place a vestibule there, requiring all visitors to go through the main office before entering the school building.

The principal’s office will be moved to the opposite side and more office space will be available where the computer lab and other classrooms currently are.

The two buildings will be connected with a third building in the middle. The new building will not have a first level and will connect via a bridge to the gymnasium and cafeteria area.

The reason for the bridge is to allow room in the event that a spring that runs through the property should flood.

Williams noted that adding windows back to the old building as planned could not be done without rebuilding the entire façade.

He said the school is a historical building, built shortly after World War II, and that renovations should not violate the pristine architecture.

“It’s a great building,” he said. “It’s old, but it’s in great condition.”

The gym will also receive a new pitched roof with some red to display the school’s color.

When asked about the locker rooms, Williams said they would be completely functional by the end of the remodel and could be used by either gym classes or the community.

Other renovations include doubling the size of the cafeteria and adding moveable seating in the gym.

“Fries is really going to be a better school than it’s ever been, as far as tying itself together and being up to date,” Williams said.