The Halifax County School Board reviewed an updated design and received prices for the site package for the new Halifax County High School in a work session Wednesday afternoon in the school board conference room.
The exact guaranteed maximum price of the HCHS project as well as gap funding for the project, which exceeds its budget, are still unknown.
Architects Grimm + Parker presented the school trustees an updated, final design for the new HCHS with minor tweaks from the last design that was presented. The architects also gave trustees a virtual walk-through of a model of the interior of the school.
“At first glance, you’ll see the building still has the same form as when you saw it last. It doesn’t look at this level that a lot has changed,” said Steve Mundt, a partner with Grimm + Parker. “But we have had a lot of meetings with a lot of the staff over at the high school, really doing the deep dive into all of your various career and technical education programs and all the science labs, getting every lab the way that it’s best going to accommodate your needs. So at a more detailed level, some things have changed.”
The automotive program space now contains five bays rather than the four bays in the last design, without increasing the total square footage of the program space. Other CTE program changes in the new school design include having two separate dedicated labs for the horticulture and landscape programs and having two separate labs for electrical and building trades (carpentry, HVAC and plumbing), Mundt noted.
Mundt drew trustees’ attention to a couple of other changes in the high school’s updated design: an enlarged band room and smaller choir room based on projected enrollment of both programs, and the creation of a large fitness center and elimination of the wrestling room.
Mundt also shared highlights of the high school’s design. One of those highlights is a two-story gymnasium with a capacity in the “high 2,000s, pretty close to the 3,000 mark,” with a curtain offering the capability of having two separate small-scale athletic events in the gym at once. Another highlight is a two-story auditorium with a whole section of second-floor seating and first-floor seating gentling sloping downward toward the stage. The stage is directly accessible from the first level of the auditorium without any lift needed or the need to go up or down stairs, making it handicap accessible and easier to move equipment on and off stage.
School Superintendent Dr. Amy Huskin voiced her approval of the design of the auditorium.
“This looks fantastic,” she said.
Another primary feature in what Grimm + Parker terms the “Main Street” of the high school is the cafeteria, an open, bright space with plenty of windows to let in natural light. The cafeteria will offer students traditional table seating as well as bistro-style seating.
The “Main Street” of the new HCHS is a mezzanine design, with the central part of the second floor overlooking the central section of the first floor of the building, Tyler Whitney of Grimm + Parker shared with trustees as he walked them through a virtual model of the school.
Not only will the new HCHS have a more open layout than the current school building, but the new school also is designed to let in as much natural light as possible, with glass paneling and an abundance of windows throughout the building. Mundt noted the school will have glass at the end of the academic hallways, allowing natural light to filter all the way through the hallways. Mundt pointed out another feature of the school’s hallways: the center sections break out into larger “workspaces” for students, complete with whiteboards.
“It gives some places for some informal learning, or if a teacher wants to send a group of students out to do some group work independent of what’s going on in the classroom, you have the option of being able to do that,” Mundt explained.
Along with viewing floorplans and the virtual model of the new school, the school trustees also had the opportunity to look through flooring and brick samples for the new HCHS.
“We wanted the brick for the new building to emulate what’s on the middle school,” Jim Boyd, a partner with Grimm + Parker, shared with the trustees.
The flooring for the new high school has not yet been selected. Huskin stated she was in favor of blue, gray and neutral color schemes for the flooring, noting the importance of thinking “long-term” when making selections for the interior design of the new HCHS. She also told Grimm + Parker she prefers a minimal amount of carpet in the new school because of the continuous need to replace it.
ED-8 Trustee Walter Potts asked a question about the security of the new school building.
“In the case of an active shooter, how fast can we lock down the front and the back and everywhere else?” he asked.
Mundt responded that the architects’ intent is to keep the front and back doors of the school locked at all times. However, in the case that the doors are not always locked, Mundt said locking of the front and back doors would be programmable, and whether all teachers or only key staff members would have the authority to program the doors to lock would be a decision left up to the school administration.
“The time between you telling someone to flip a switch or activate something and those doors locking is seconds. It’s very fast,” Boyd said. He added all the school’s exterior doors would have controls that would be wired.
In addition, there is a suite of offices for the school security officers on the first floor of the building. and there will be a room with video cameras for surveillance located on the third floor of the school.
Following Grimm + Parker’s presentation, contractors Howard Shockey & Sons shared a guaranteed maximum price for the site package for the new school.
“The Shockey team has spent countless hours getting pricing from more than one source for each (building) trade. These are the numbers that we have vetted together and come back with for your site,” HCHS project manager Vincent Maresca told the trustees.
The GMP for the base sitework package is $12.56 million, which is about 5% higher than the price the contractors had originally anticipated for the project. The site package is for all the work associated with the “site demolition, erosion control, earthwork, site concrete, asphalt paving and utilities work to the building,” according to Howard Shockey & Sons’ presentation.
If the contractors provide synthetic liner instead of using on-site clay material, it will bump up the price by $210,402. The addition of asphalt pricing to hold the cost steady through the projected construction completion date of August 2025 tacks on another $169,315. Those additions take the guaranteed maximum price to $12.94.
The sitework is only the first phase of the HCHS construction project. The final guaranteed maximum price for the entire project is unknown at this time. However, the last quoted price for the project was $125.5 million, which is $16.5 million over the project’s $109 million budget.
Halifax County Public Schools has applied for a Virginia Public School Construction Grant to secure the needed additional funding the HCHS project. Huskin told trustees at Wednesday’s work session the maximum amount of funding HCHS is eligible to receive is $23 million. The state school board is meeting this month; however, Huskin told trustees it is unknown at this time whether a decision on the award of the grant funding is on the agenda.
During Wednesday’s work session, the Howard Shockey & Sons team also shared that May 29 is the day they can officially “put a shovel in the ground” and start on the construction of the new HCHS. The team remarked they need to have a “big summer” and work rapidly on the project while students and staff are out of school. Since the site of the new school is near the current high school building, the contractors noted they will need to put on site construction safety measures in place prior to students’ and staff members’ return to school in the fall.
School Board Chair Jay Camp asked about the condition of the soil at the site of the future HCHS. The Howard Shockey & Sons team responded that they plan to use aggregate piers to support construction on the east part of the building because of soft soil in that area. The aggregate piers will be drilled down and filled with stone.