By Matt de Simone
As the 2020-21 school year approaches, Botetourt County faces a challenging fall semester due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the difficult summer of decisions made by administrators, teachers, and parents regarding the changes to all county schools’ scheduling, one of the bright spots is in the new Colonial Elementary School in Blue Ridge.
Last February, about 20 percent of the construction was complete. As the first day of school soon approaches, Project Manager Jim Witten recently revealed that the new Colonial Elementary would be ready to welcome students inside the facility in 2020.
“The building is under a roof, we just haven’t sealed everything,” Witten explained. “We’re on schedule. The plan is to open the school on December 18.”
Another critical factor in the school’s construction is making sure the project remains on-budget up until its completion. Despite the mandates set due to the pandemic and a few weather delays, Witten noted that construction is on schedule with minimal changes made to the day-to-day orders.
Witten also spoke about the building itself and what needs to be done from now until the school opens its doors. “All of the school is water-tight except for a portion of the administration area,” Witten said. “That’s the front part of the building. The steel decking is on. We have yet to add the rubber membrane.”
Witten explained that the biggest challenge in the construction of the school was the weather. To better handle the elements, G&H built up and covered one half of the school. If weather affected work outside, the crew could move inside to continue working on the enclosed areas. As a result, part of the school already has painted interior walls and air-conditioning.
These strategies were implemented by G&H Contracting Supervisor Donald Gibson, who was also responsible for constructing the Botetourt YMCA. “The man really knows what he’s doing,” Witten explained. “He knows how to keep everyone going. Even when we have hardships with the weather, he knows how to work around it and keep things going. Every time G&H can save us money, they seem to have a knack of being able to do that. It has been able to keep the cost way down.”