A couple of major school district projects look good to go but another one is on hold, at least for now, since the COVID-19 outbreak.
Director of operations Ian Heselgrave updated board of education trustees on the district’s wish list of capital projects at the latest regular meeting on April 28.
“We have a series of fairly major capital projects that are happening at a pretty difficult time, and we are actually rather on track,” he said.
Lake Trail Middle School is proceeding, as it is expected workers will have plenty of opportunity to distance themselves on site through the warmer months, though it could get trickier over the next eight months when people have to work indoors.
“Most of the [upcoming] work is outside,” Heselgrave explained.
Heatherbrae Builders Ltd. is overseeing the seismic upgrade work, which is focused on two sites: a south addition on Lake Trail Road and a north addition behind the school gym.
On Hornby Island, with demolition work done and excavation and foundation happening soon, the new school is taking shape. AFC Construction Ltd. is overseeing management of the project, which will see a replacement school for the building that burned in August 2018. Tendering packages and construction drawings will happen over the summer, Heselgrave added.
In December 2019, Minister of Education Rob Fleming came to the Comox Valley to announce these two projects. However, the situation for a planned child care facility on Denman Island is on hold – primarily a victim of bad timing.
“It went out to tender at probably the most difficult time, which was just before the public health orders kicked in,” Heselgrave said.
The public health and economic situation posed questions around budgets for construction firms, as well as supply chains and staffing.
“The appropriate course of action was to really put a delay in,” he said. “We want to deliver a good project.”
The Ministry of Children and Family Development has been notified of the delay. Eventually, the project will create 20 new child care spaces on Denman for children ages 12 months to five years.
Heselgrave said some uncertainty around work right now has meant the district has received a lot of interest and some competitive quotes for mechanical upgrade projects. He has spoken with construction firms and contractors recently about issues around COVID-19 and what this will mean to projects for the near future.
“One of the overriding principles right now is we need to figure out how to do this,” he said. “We have to get good at doing construction because, you know, work has to go on.”
He said the industry has been buying into spacing requirements around lunch and break spaces, and other measures such as upgraded hand-washing facilities.
“I think industry is adapting and adapting quickly,” he said, adding he will continue to update the board.
Trustee Sheila McDonnell said she was disappointed to hear the news about the Denman child care facility and wondered if this was an issue the community could help with through fundraising.
Heselgrave again stressed it was a matter of timing and is confident in the plan’s designs and the district’s ability to build a good space. He added they hope to reassess the idea of pursuing the project this summer.
“We just have an outstanding facility planned,” he said. “I think all we’ve done is lost some time.”
Other capital projects for School District 71 include a fire sprinkler upgrade at Cumberland Community School and ducting work at Mark Isfeld Secondary.