GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — Guilford County commissioners and members of the Board of Education got a first-hand look at several schools that are currently under construction on Wednesday.
While Guilford County Schools leaders are proud to show the progress of the construction that’s underway, they also shared what challenges they have faced in the process and the changes they’ve had to make.
Guilford County Schools has six school projects underway.
Superintendent Dr. Whitney Oakley was a part of the tour of five of those sites, including Brooks Global Studies, Peck, Foust and Claxton elementary schools and Kiser Middle School.
“Many people don’t realize that it takes two and a half years to build a school … We’re in the construction phase right now. Our projects that are underway are on track for fall of 2024,” Oakley said.
The construction is part of the $300 million bond approved by voters in 2020.
The projects are on schedule, but the projects encountered some obstacles before getting to this point.
“I don’t think any of the issues are a surprise. There’s so much construction with college and universities, health care industries and the school system. So there’s more competition. Things are more expensive. Inflation is real,” Oakley said.
They have had to alter design plans for sites to accommodate the challenges presented like at the Brooks Global Studies site, which was initially going to be a three-story school, but is now going to be a two-story school.
“We’re still having the same capacity. We’re still having the same programming there, but anywhere that we can make sure that we’re being fiscally responsible and stretching dollars as far as we can, we’re going to do that,” Oakley said.
Another site plan that saw changes was at Claxton Elementary to add security and to make the building more accessible for students and staff with disabilities.
“The plans are consistently changing, but … they’re changing for the good. … So as we build, we find that … sometimes there may have been some error in our conceptual thought. And so from a constructability standpoint, it’s our job to come and find a way to get around those,” said Clarence Satchell, Samet Corporation superintendent.
“That part of design is called value engineering,” Oakley said. “That’s when you go back and see is there anything that we could tweak or do a little bit differently that keeps the integrity of the program but might provide some cost-saving?’
During the tour of school sites, Oakley spoke with project managers about how the projects were going, sharing her excitement about the advancement of the construction.
“I think the community has really shown up for public education. Kids are excited. The community is excited. Great schools make great communities,” Oakley said.
Principals at Claxton and Foust elementary schools shared their excitement to see progress being made on their schools’ construction after touring the project sites.
“Our staff deserve it. Our families deserve it. Our students deserve it … I think the teachers are excited about the learning spaces that they’re going to have” said Kevin Thoma, Claxton Elementary School principal.
“We really want to make sure that the building, the physical spaces, the learning spaces really reflect 21st-century learning and all of the things that our students are going to be asked to do as a part of competing in this global economy. So the physical space … plays a big role into … really making sure students are prepared,” said Dr. Kendrick Alston, Foust Elementary School principal.
The Guilford County Schools’ construction sites are on track to be completed by the fall of summer 2024, and the district is documenting the progress on its website.