The Haida Gwaii School District (SD 50) encountered unexpected issues with the Masset Schools Project over the summer but they don’t expect it to delay the project finishing date, Lao Peerless, manager of operations, said during a school board meeting on Sept. 13.
For the project, SD 50 is conducting seismic upgrades and construction of a tsunami tower at Gudangaay Tlaats’gaa Naay Secondary School, as well as renovations to make it suitable for kindergarten to Grade 12 students. Currently, only Grade 8 to 12 students are in the building but once construction is complete, the local elementary school, Tahayghen, will join them.
Over the summer a geotechnical engineering firm tested the soil at the building site and found it was unsupported in the areas where the tsunami tower and a couple of classrooms have been proposed.
“We had to do a lot of extra work to remove [the soil] and there is some extra cost that we’ve incurred through that,” Peerless said.
However, he added, they are still within the budget because there was some slack worked into the original estimate.
Construction was further delayed after a worker saw a piece of asbestos in the crawlspace.
“We shut down that area for work and brought in an asbestos abatement team and because it was in the sand, we had to suck out about six inches of sand, into a pumper truck and bag it and bring it to the dump,” Lao said.
Air tests later confirmed that the asbestos had been removed from the site but the extra work again created additional costs.
Despite the setbacks, work crews put up the tsunami tower foundation and built a fence around it to keep the public out while work continues. They started to replace the hydronics (water heating system) and water lines in the main corridor and begin putting drywall up in three new classrooms.
Peerless still expects that Tahayghen students will be starting the school year in September 2023 at the newly renovated building.
The district posts monthly public updates on the Masset Schools Project on the SD 50 website.
As preparation of the physical spaces continues over the next year, SD 50 will also be working to figure out the day-to-day logistics of a newly amalgamated school.
This includes how students in different grades will interact, what staffing will be required and what needs to be done to welcome the younger kids to a new school, Manu Madhok, interim superintendent, said during the school board meeting.
Kaitlyn Bailey | Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
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