At Thursday’s Ox Ridge Elementary School Building Committee meeting, members unanimously approved a motion to adopt an alternate phase of construction of the project against the original, enabling phase.

The alternate phasing plan allows the entire existing building to stay intact, and builds the new building in two phases.

In a virtual PowerPoint presentation, representatives from the SLAM collaborative and O&G Industries spoke about the alternate construction phasing strategy including its pros and cons, as well as how it compares to the original phasing project schedule.

New phasing option

Kemp Morhardt, principal architect with SLAM, said the K to 5 and ELP wing is sequence one and the assembly wing is sequence two.

“This will help avoid the need to take any of the existing building down in the short term, and avoid costs for modifications to the existing building to facilitate the temporary occupancy during the construction,” Morhardt said.

SLAM Architect Amy Samuelson said they were planning on building the new school all in one phase.

“The construction was very tight to the existing building,” she said.

There was a need to provide extra tall foundation walls at the assembly wing because of the proximity to the existing building, according to Samuelson.

“With the new phasing alternate option, we can eliminate a lot of that extra concrete work,” she added.

The site logistics plan for the end of construction would allow refurbishing and finishing up the site work where the existing building had remained, but the new building would be in use beginning in the school year 2022.

 Phase 1 includes the administration wing, the new entrance, all of ELP, and all of the elementary school classrooms, the area around the courtyard.

In Phase 1, the full existing building as it stands now would remain for the next school year. No work will be done during the summer on the school building itself.

“When the building first opens, we would have to utilize the ELP for some of the program areas that are going to be still under construction,” Samuelson said.

 Phase 2 includes the assembly wing, starting at the gymnasium, including the gym, library, the cafeteria, and music rooms.

On a temporary basis, there would be no library media center, cafeteria, gymnasium, or music rooms.

The ELP students would have to be deferred from coming to this new building until the assembly wing is complete and full occupancy of the new building is complete.

Cons of the new plan, according to Samuelson, is there would be no kitchen for much of the 2021-2022 school year. Hot lunches would have to be provided from one of the other schools.

Members then discussed the possibility that the kitchen might be saved during the construction period.

“A win”

“I think this is a win because with starting in November, we are allowing the school to return with some sense of normalcy instead of returning to an active construction site,” David Cravanzola of O&G Industries, said. “It allows the school to get started without having us there on site with them.”

At the end of January or beginning of February of 2022, “we’ll be able to move into the academic wing. It allows us to then demolish the existing school starting the end of February and then start preparing the site for the new assembly wing,” he said.

The assembly wing will be built starting in April or May of 2022.

“As soon as the building is down, we’re going to be developing the site,”said Cravanzola, adding the goal is still to have the site work essentially complete before winter sets in 2022.

“We will then allow time for the move in to the assembly wing, right around the winter break in February,” he added.

Architects anticipate being finished with the entire project in April of 2023.

Savings of $500,000

According to Samuelson, the overall savings to the project to utilize the optional phasing schedule is about $500,000.

Committee member Diane Boston said based on all the points that have been made, this is a really “positive direction” for the project.

“It’s a good alternative. It doesn’t seem to be much of a loss,” she said. “Most importantly, it leaves the building intact in its entirety and without construction at this time and with the start of school — which I think is really critical considering the climate we are working within right now. I think this is a really good direction. I support it fully.”

Solar panels, power contract

In regard to the use or disposal of the existing solar panels at the Ox Ridge Elementary School and the cost of terminating the power contract, committee member Rusty Shriner said the plan is to remove 48 panels, rehook up the rest of them, and continue with the solar panel system until school gets out in 2022, “at which time we will take down the balance.”

The liquidated damages for breaking the power purchase agreement including the removal of all the solar panels, will be around $135,000, given the current schedule, according to Shriner.

“That will be a cost of the project,” Shriner said. “It has been added on to the budget currently.”

Committee member Randy Giraldo said at both the Architectural Review Board meeting and the May 12 public hearing, there was a lot of support for the project and of the current design that was presented.

Parent concerns

The committee has received some letters from concerned Ox Ridge Elementary School parents, in relation to social distancing measures the committee is considering.

Committee co-chairman Kip Koons said the issues that they raised — which include concerns about reduced indoor space and significantly reduced outdoor space — are being addressed.

The shared entry was also a concern by parents.

There is one driveway for construction, students, buses and faculty.

Despite that, Cravanzola said “our goal is to mitigate that by staggering and prohibiting deliveries to and from the site during the times that that driveway is used for school pick up and drop off.”

“Our goal is to maintain separation — no intermingling,” he added. “This approach is consistent with that, in that before any work starts out there, there is a clear and distinct separation between any and all construction activities and any and all educational activities. That is always there in place, as far as workers go.”

Next steps

On May 20, there is a Zoning Board of Appeals follow-up public hearing.

Watch the Ox Ridge Elementary School Building Committee meeting on Darien TV/79.

sfox@Darientimes.com