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During a mostly-virtual work session Dec. 17, the Giles County Board of Education hosted Wold HFR Design representatives who made a presentation outlining their proposals for capital improvements to the county’s schools. The firm had been selected by Dr. Vickie Beard as her first choice to complete the work following the dismissal of the previous firm contracted to complete the upgrades, ESG.

Beth Meadows, an associate at Wold HFR, presented a slideshow outlining their findings following a recent walk-through of the eight Giles County schools. They identified many areas that could be addressed to improve safety, security, indoor air quality and accessibility throughout the school system, including:

•Improving the buildings’ “envelope” by ensuring that schools are sealed from all sides by repairing or replacing roofs, doors, weather stripping, windows and walls, which would prevent water infiltration and improve efficiency;

• Improving indoor air quality by installing UV lights in the HVAC system, which kills up to 99 percent of bacteria and viruses in the recirculated air;

• Upgrading building facades to modernize and improve the look of the schools;

• Ensuring code compliance, such as replacing wire glass found in windows and doors;

• Upgrading interior finishes to improve aesthetics, by replacing old acoustic tile or installing new drop ceilings to cover exposed piping, for example; and

• Exterior site enhancements to improve drainage and accessibility by creating open drainage ditches, re-grading areas to ensure water flows away from buildings, installing sidewalks, repaving surfaces, etc.

Stephen Griffin, principal at Wold HFR, said the efficiencies gained during the renovation would “reduce life-cycle costs over 30 years.” He mentioned that due to the ongoing pandemic, bids for construction work have been coming in low, which could also save the county money.

Griffin praised Giles County for the work they have done so far. The county used Wold HFR for their ADA assessments, so the firm is already somewhat familiar with the school system. They commended Giles County for having already updated its lighting to high efficiency LED lights. They also complimented the county maintenance staff for taking on complicated repairs that are often outsourced in other districts.

If approved at the upcoming Jan. 7 school board meeting, Wold HFR will begin work on conducting a detailed evaluation of schools to understand the needs. They will write a plan that prioritizes these needs over three to five years across all eight schools, while minimizing disruption to students. This process could take up to three months given the scope of the project.

A third-party estimator will provide a rough budget, at which point the school board will be able to determine how they wish to use the $6.4 million in funds allocated by the county for this work and determine a plan for funding the remaining work.

Once the scope of work is determined, Wold HFR would oversee the design development phase, when the details of the construction plan are finalized. The firm suggested hiring a devoted construction manager at risk at this point. The CMR assumes liability for the success of the project, becoming integral to the development of construction documents, the bidding process and the construction phase, to ensure that the project stays on schedule and budget. The CMR would be on-site daily during the construction phase to act as the school board’s representative.

Wold HFR would remain involved throughout the process, conducting site visits and helping create any necessary change orders. Upon completion, the firm would conduct a final close-out and would follow up the following year to ensure all warranties have been met.

Wold HFR described their approach as creating a team. They promised to provide credible information to the school board and community to ensure that all vested parties were kept informed throughout the process. Their fee schedule is a lump sum based on state formulas, paid incrementally over the course of the project. Griffin said the fixed bid was the most fair to both parties as it ensured the work was done well and on schedule, rather than being drawn out at a greater cost to the county.

The next school board meeting will be at 5 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021, at the Central Office.

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