W-JCC construction projects progressing

Williamsburg-James City County Schools two biggest projects are on time, according to the firms in charge of construction.

Both the fourth middle school underway at the James Blair site and Lafayette High School's auxiliary gym are set to be ready for use mid-summer 2018.

Updates on the projects were part of the joint meeting Friday between the School Board, James City County Board of Supervisors and Williamsburg City Council.

Middle school construction

Representatives from the construction management firm, MBP, running the project showed off digital renderings of the new middle school school side-by-side real-time photos of the building in progress.

MBP representative Jim Yatzeck said it's on time and within budget; phase one of construction is estimated to total $26 million. Phase two won't begin until the mid-2020s.

"The project is starting to take shape and come out of the ground," Yatzeck said.

Crews began laying the foundation in December. They started adding floor slabs this month and began masonry work, said MBP's on-site construction manager Eric Kaldmaa.

The school is design to accommodate 21st century learning, so flexibility and collaboration is important, Yatzeck said.

Student lockers will be on wheeled platforms in the common area of each grade, he said. Instead of dry erase boards, entire walls will be made of marker-board surface, and the gym and cafeteria will have a shared stage in between.

"You're going to be able to open up walls," Yatzeck said. "You can either have a single classroom or if the entire grade wants to do an event, you can essentially open up the entire space. There's the common area in the middle and that's going to give a lot of flexibility for a lot of different student activities."

Phase one construction will open the school to 600 students; phase two building will add space for 300 more, Yatzeck said.

Auxiliary gym

Unlike the middle school, Lafayette's auxiliary gym is still in the planning stages.

School advocates have wanted a gym for years, but with the demolition of the James Blair gym last summer to make way for the middle school, the need became more pressing.

Bids for companies to build the facility won't be awarded until May, said HBA representative Jack Hasten. HBA is the architecture firm the division hired to design the facility.

The free-standing structure will have bathrooms, storage areas, a food vendor space and bleachers for about 200 people, Hasten said. Designers are paying special attention to ensure the addition looks like the original building — which opened in the 1970s.

The gym will be connected to the school by a canopy, Hasten said.

A design was presented to the board in January along with the value engineering assessment, which looks for ways to save money on the construction.

"It was a very productive process, a very collaborative process between the School Board and MBP," Hasten said. "The bottom line is it represented approximately $200,000 savings for the project."

He added that the site has "unique geotechnical challenges with respect to soil type," so the funds would be added to the project's contingency funds.

"In every project you have some contingency," schools spokeswoman Betsy Overkamp-Smith said Tuesday. "If you already know the soil or other issues are common, it's something you need to be prepared for."

Estimates from HBA last spring put final costs at $2.5 million. Hasten said ground-breaking is planned for mid-June.

Williams can be reached by phone at 757-345-2341.

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