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Barrow school leaders agree on adding more time for construction

POSTED: August 8, 2014 12:21 p.m.
Zac Taylor/Barrow County News

School officials and construction workers completed enough of the new Sims Academy in time for students last Friday, but school leaders agreed that, in the future, they'll allow more than the roughly one year that construction crews had to build the career academy.

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Numerous Barrow administrators took the time Tuesday night at the board of education meeting to praise all of the system staff who had done so much to get the new Sims Academy of Innovation and Technology mostly ready for students ahead of Friday’s start of school.

Then they said they never wanted to put everyone in that same situation again.

"12 months, 80,000 square feet, we don’t need to do that again," said Barrow’s assistant superintendent for systems operations, Joe Perno.

The next pair of schools the county is planning on building, including a replacement for Russell Middle and a new elementary school likely to be placed on the same campus, both have 16-month construction windows.

The goal there is to have construction projects go more like Bear Creek Middle, which finished up last summer in plenty of time for teachers to set up and prepare with not nearly the rush of what has been happening at Sims Academy.

"We need to look at ways in the future to get into schools earlier," said BOE member Rickey Bailey, after he praised what the staff has done at Sims in such a small timeframe. "We put our people under so much stress."

The reason for their being so much stress regarding getting the new career academy ready for students is due in large to the fact that, according to board member Connie Wehunt, everyone focused on the completion date and then tried to start as quickly as possible.

The problem is that it takes a long time to even get to a groundbreaking – surveys and assessments have been ongoing for months at the site of the new Russell Middle, where construction won’t even start until December as scheduled.

The career academy construction has had its own trials, from some unusually severe winter weather to the unique aspects inherent in building a career academy as opposed to a regular school.

And that was on top of a constrained construction timetable to start with, as the groundbreaking done in conjunction with the Lanier Tech campus (to be completed later in the fall) took place last summer.

That’s why, although it’s not a situation system administrators want to replicate, they are so appreciative of all employees – along with the general contractor and subcontractors – who have put in so much work so that new students were able to walk into the grand entrance Wednesday for the open house and again on Friday for the first day of school.

The ribbon cutting for Sims Academy is scheduled for 9 a.m. Sept. 3. Currently Perno said 85 percent of the work has been completed. What’s most important is that the front lobby along with the A, B, and half of the C-wing were ready for students by Wednesday’s open house. The rest of the work will be done as quickly as possible downstairs in the C-wing and after school hours for punch list work in the rest of the building.



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