Students and staff at Oak Bay High are seeing their new school rise before their eyes.
Six months after Farmer Construction Ltd. won the design-build contract to take on the $50-million construction of the new school in June 2013, students watch from classroom windows as construction transforms the building daily. Principal Dave Thomson says excitement is in the air.
“The nice thing is we have this bird’s eye view,” he says. “We watch it every day, we have got lots of interested spectators and (we) recognize how quickly this transformation is happening.”
The current two-building system will soon be gone, amalgamated into a single 180,000-square-foot structure to be handed over by July 1, 2015, by which time the 35 to 40 construction workers on site will have tripled to approximately 120 full-time workers.
“It is one of those bitter sweet things” says Thomson. “We are excited and ecstatic to get the state-of-the-art building, but it is a bit of a tug at the heartstrings knowing how many kids and families – multi-generations that have walked through these hallways.”
Construction will take place in five phases, the first two the gymnasiums and a collection of classrooms where implementation of structural steel is expected Jan. 20. That is followed by the 420-seat theatre, main entrance, library and more classrooms. The Tech Educational Area, and the Neighbourhood Learning Centre will go up last. Once the buildings are up, both current school buildings will be replaced by a playing field, one an international-sized soccer pitch, the other a rugby field.
Despite a tight daily schedule that has seen them pour more than 1,200 metres of concrete thus far, John Scheeren of Farmer Construction Ltd., says he too was excited that they are already 20 per cent into development of the historic property – not only on schedule, but ahead of it.
“We have been fortunate with the good weather and we are running a good, efficient project here,” Scheeren says. “We are making very good progress. We are probably about a month ahead of concrete foundations right now.”
The first official hand over is expected Sept. 1, when Scheeren will turn over the gymnasium, on the Cranmore Road side, to the school for the 2014-15 school year. Only then can he begin deconstruction of the old gym to be replaced by the Tech Educational Area, the last building scheduled for construction.
Scheeren, an Oak Bay High graduate himself, who also headed construction for the new Tillicum Centre Target store, an 834-unit condo project downtown, the Westin Hotel at Bear Mountain as well as several projects at St. Michael’s University school and the University of Victoria, says the school is also on budget to meet the $50-million price tag for the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold standard building.
“This is my alma mater. I graduated from Oak Bay High in 1975. The opportunity to come back and build the new school is one of the most exciting projects I have ever been a part of,” Scheeren says. “(This) is the front door to the community, a lot of people drive down everyday and when the building is finished that is going to be the first thing they see. … We want it to be something we can be proud of.”