Thompson addition unfinished at deadline; town employees to work on current classrooms

Hardy construction delayed until 2018

Thompson School

Hardy School logoUPDATED, Aug. 17: Meeting at the Stratton School on Tuesday, Aug. 15, the Permanent Town Building Committee wrestled with what to do with the stalled Thompson classroom construction project, which is not expected to be completed on time.

With the finish date of the six-classroom addition uncertain, officials voted to have town employees help finish work needed on six existing classrooms needed for the opening school. A decision has been made to proceed.

The Hardy addition will be delayed until 2018. Principal Kristin DeFrancisco told the public in an email Aug. 16: "While we were hoping to start construction in November, that will not be able to happen. Instead, our start will more likely be in March. The process to develop schematic designs, issue an RFP for a contractor, select a contractor and develop construction drawings could not be completed by November to begin construction.

"While I know this is not what we had hoped, it is very important that a project like this be done well because it is forever. Please know that I have been working closely with the architects and project managers to keep the planning moving. Every effort was made for a November start, but it is not in the best interest of the project." Read more below.

The opening of the six-classroom addition, missing the Aug.  18 deadsline, is possible in late September of early October. Students will use modular classrooms for the interim.

Steady progress at Stratton, Gibbs

In contrast, reports about the building projects at the Gibbs and Stratton revealed steady progress and needed no intervention on the part of the committee.

Brian DeFilippis and Burt Barachowitz of PMA Consultants, the owners' project managers, reported on what had been accomplished so far at the Thompson and enumerated issues that are holding up construction. The masonry, reported at the Aug. 1 meeting as not having been delivered in full to the site, has now arrived and has been installed, along with the windows.

Roof measurements, wallboard installation and painting are now ongoing. Electrical work is done, and the furniture delivered. Overall, all materials needed for the construction of the six classrooms are onsite and do not impede the progress of the construction, though it had been a problem earlier in the summer.

What has delayed the construction at the Thompson is the lack of manpower, a problem cited in an July 27 Thompson update, and one that had not been corrected. As DeFilippis reported to the committee, he "should see many more workers onsite, but [is] really not seeing them." Moreover, DeFilippis complained that he has had "trouble getting in contact" with the contractor.

Ruthy Bennett, town director of facilities and member of the Permanent Town Building Committee, told the committee that the classrooms needed to be done, and she proposed two alternatives: 1) hire another contractor or 2) give the contractor a new deadline of Aug. 20. It was also suggested that the contractor be given a deadline of Aug. 25 and let him now he has to finish connecting pieces and doors. He should be requested to work through the weekend.

After considerable discussion among the committee members, Bennett concluded that "it would be simpler to get our employees to do it than to get another contractor." A town crew could work on the classrooms, Bennett explained to the committee, but only if she took her workers off every other project. Because of the current building contract, the town workers could not begin until after Aug. 18.

The decision whether to use town workers will be taken up at a site-visit meeting Aug. 18. The contractor will be invited to join this meeting, but there was some speculation he might not show up. Meanwhile, the regular building meeting on Wednesdays will discuss the flooring contract. To make it possible to use town employees, if necessary, the committee passed a motion "to allow the town manager to authorize town workers to finish work on the Thompson." It passed unanimously.

Gibbs: Completing demolition, construction in the fall

Addressing the Gibbs construction project, Kim Baker from NV5 Consulting reported on the continued site demolition of building and existing pathway and curbing. Along with the demolitions, workers carried out abatements of the existing boiler and throughout the interior.

The contractor, Shawmut Design and Construction, has removed all windows to be replaced with cost and energy saving ones. Asked by committee Chairman John Cole about the work left to be done on demolition, Baker called it 60 percent complete and said he expected no further problems with the rest.

Some minor complications emerged this summer. The winning contractor for waterproofing and caulking withdrew, and the project manager had to rebid them. In addition, other problems arose with the steel beams, some of which were in the way of machine equipment. Finally, Baker described another unforeseen condition: uneven floors that will need to be leveled.

Once the demolition is completed by fall, construction will begin with the foundation for a new Foster Street entrance. The project will then move forward, erecting interior steel, replacing existing stairwells and installing new windows. Masonry contractors will engage in restoration work on the exterior of the building. The project is on schedule for the school opening in September 2018.

Baker passed around the table a new flier describing progress on the building construction with planned activities. The flier will be distributed to all abutters and displayed on the town and school website. Read a town update here >>

Renovated Stratton to open; landscaping remains

Before the meeting, the committee and attendees got an extensive tour of Stratton by the architect, Lee Rich of DRA. He pointed out the replacement of a number of walls with large, light-enhancing windows allowing daylight into classrooms, hallways and the media center. Wooden cubbies for coats that lined the hallways had been refinished. All doorways and entrances were now ADA-compliant. All of the large classrooms had been repainted in light, coordinating colors.

No major changes were possible as the building was renovated, not rebuilt -- the last of the town's seven elementary schools in upgrades that began in 1998.

The work not completed by opening of school involves landscaping the field and the play area. Rich explained that the work would include repairing a retaining wall and repairing the surroundings that had been damaged by construction. He plans to employ E&R Landscapers.

Hardy School addition

The project manager and assistant manger from JLL reported, despite the tight schedule, repirted Aug. 15 that they are up-to-date on the Hardy classroom project having completed the feasibility study and now working on the schematic design. Architect Reagan Shields-Ives announced that she had the layout for the design of classrooms completed. The manager assured the committee that all of this was accomplished with frequent consultations with the principal, Kristin DeFrancisco.

While the schedule is tight, the budget is even tighter with $3.5 million allocated for the project. The manager reported that they conduct frequent "pricing" to make sure they stay within the budget. Town manager Adam Chapdelaine said that if the Hardy project budget needs further funding, it could be considered by the Special Town Meeting, later this year or early next. A date has not been announced.

DeFrancisco reaches out to parents

As to the delay in the Hardy project, DeFrancisco told parents Aug. 16 what she had reported to the building committee the night before:

"All this being said, we will be looking for parent input for aspects of the project. We will mostly need and look forward to parent advisory with the outdoor playground space both, in the back of the school and on the Lake Street side of the school.

"I have decided that the best way to do this is to have the Hardy School Council serve in this advisory role. I am looking for 3-4 parents for council this year. The council will be able to serve in the advisory capacity as well as work on other school initiatives.

"The School Council is made of an equal number of teachers and parents. School Council meets on the first Tuesday of each month before PTO, beginning at about 5:15 pm. The Council positions will require an election if there are more than 3-4 parents interested in serving on the Council. The election, if necessary, will be by paper ballot during our Back to School evening in September.

"The Council will work on the following this year:

"1. Advisory for use of outdoor play space.

"2. Communication as necessary to parent community about outdoor space remodel.

"3. Revision of "Just the Way We Do Things Around Here" parent resource book with inclusion of growth mindset language and transferable skills language.

"4. Initial conversations about district and school work around cultural proficiency

"5. Feedback about curriculum celebrations and what parents might like to see

"6. Discussion about principal coffees and planning topics that will be helpful for parents

"7. Discussion about transition and welcoming of new principal in year 2018-2019."

July 27, 2017: Thompson moves toward plan B as August completion date looms

June 29, 2017: Hardy parents seeking parity keep up pressure for play areas

June 21, 2017: Bodie eyes Aug. 18 for Thompson completion, but keeps 'plan B' in place 

This news summary by YourArlington freelancer Jo Anne Preston was published Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017. Bob Sprague contributed to this report. Information in the initial report about when the Hardy news was known, what town employees may work on and Hardy funding has been corrected.

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