The middle school construction project is humming along. There are some areas in which we are behind the expected schedule, and some where we are ahead. Ledgewood is confident that it will all even out and we will open as scheduled in the fall of 2020. The classroom wing in particular has seen great progress, and they are getting ready to pour the slabs. They continue to work on getting the rest of the building foundation poured and will erect steel in the front section of the building as soon as possible. The roof of the academic wing will also go on soon. This summer the baseball/soccer field will be constructed and seeded, and the playground will be installed. Both of those spaces will need the year to take root. We were reminded this week in our project meeting that we are well ahead of where we would be if we had not made the decision to combine Phase One and Phase Two of the building project last summer.

One of the biggest operations currently happening on-site is placement of the lightweight cellular concrete. The retaining wall is being backfilled with this interesting material. It is a combination of cement, water, and foaming agent which is mixed on site. The resulting lightweight porous mixture weighs 35 pounds per cubic foot versus 150 pounds for normal cement. The area being filled with the material is enormous. I toured the area over the weekend and was amazed at the volume of what is being pumped in. As you may recall, this is the material that caused the large change order back in August. At that time, we also estimated a $60,000 allowance for winter conditions, hoping to be pouring in November. As it turns out, the size of the temporary structure needed to keep this large area covered and heated along with the time it has taken to construct it has cost significantly more than we anticipated. This is partly due to the weather. Men working in five-degree weather are not as productive as those who work in 40-degree weather. It has been cold. And the work is not yet done, so these costs will increase even more. We are expecting another change order that is over $100,000 for the winter conditions we have faced. This will come out of the building contingency.

At the monthly requisition meeting we had last week, numerous things were said that affirmed the strength of the team working on this difficult project. One is that Ledgewood is working incredibly hard to minimize the winter conditions overage. They have taken on work themselves to save the district money. And the conditions are tough on them as well – the industry faces a huge labor shortage and Ledgewood is doing everything they can to keep people on our site in order to keep the project on pace. In addition, Ledgewood is constantly looking ahead, working to mitigate potential future issues. Oak Point is doing the same. They are keeping up with revised drawings that will greatly help the crew on the ground when things start to get rolling. They have been willing to provide far more support and expertise than their contract states. That is not always the case with architects. The contractor also noted the strength and tenacity of the team as a whole. The team is strong, invested and committed to working together to make sure the project is successful. We have already weathered many storms and have the fortitude and expertise to address whatever challenges come our way. There is a lot of mutual respect within the project team that enables productive working relationships even when there are difficulties to overcome.