For eight months, students peering out classroom windows at the new Middle School have watched it grow from a skeleton of bare beams to a brick covered structure almost equal in height to Wilson Hall.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s order to suspend all non-life-sustaining businesses amid the coronavirus outbreak halted construction in the matter of a day. Since March 21, no bricks have been laid, no joints have been welded, nothing has moved on the site.
“However, there’s some hope that we will be able to start again soon,” Head of Middle School Dr. Jay Greytok said.
Governor Wolf has recently relaxed some standards, allowing select private companies to make their own decision on whether to continue or not. The authority over which firms are permitted to proceed with construction is held by the township.
“So that’s the good news.” Dr. Greytok said. However, he continued, “The bad news is we still don’t know whether we will be allowed to restart.”
Following the closure of business, Dr. Greytok has not had a meeting with Adams Bickel; however, he has communicated with Aegis Property Group, the school’s owner’s representative.
“Aegis helped in choosing the architect firm, builder, and ensures the project runs on time and within budget. They are the representatives of The Haverford School,” Dr. Greytok said.
The project has some flexibility as the building was one month ahead of schedule prior to the pause and was under budget. Dr. Greytok praised Aegis for their guidance, Adams Bickel Associates, LLC, the construction company, for working diligently leading up to the pause.
“I am very grateful for the folks at Aegis as well as the folks at Adams Bickels. Their ability to be one month ahead of schedule shows how efficient they are, and how they are able to move parts from one place to another with speed. They too are business people, and they have other stuff that they want to work on after they’re done with our project.”
However, this head start is narrowing as the shutdown continues.
Dr. Greytok said, “In a week [April 17] we’ll have stopped construction for about a month. If we do restart construction, we believe we will be able to open on time. But, there’s still a lot of stuff that has to happen in between in order for all of that [the construction] to occur.”
Regardless of whether the construction of the building finished on time, measures have been taken to ensure that the Middle School students will have a place to learn. If they are unable to enter the building, Dr. Greytok has made plans to continue in Virtue Village.
“Nobody could have predicted this, but we were wise enough to make sure that we could hold on to Virtue Village a little longer than September,” said Dr. Greytok.
Another aspect that has not been affected by the break is the design of the building. Instead, the main challenge aside from time is the budget. The budgeting issue arises from the system in which the construction workers are hired in separate small groups: carpenters, plumbers, electricians, et cetera. These workers may move to different trades during the public health crisis, and there is a possibility that they will not be available after a month.
“Hopefully they will still be able to come back and help us finish construction on time,” said Dr. Greytok.
All the major decisions were finalized prior to the halt aside from moving in furniture. However, even if the building is not completed by the scheduled date, placing the furniture should not be a hassle.
“I’m super excited to get into a new building and to start classes up again on campus.”Middle School Head Dr. Jay Greytok ’83
Dr. Greytok said, “We can always store it [the furniture] in the warehouse if the building is not done by August. Also, Furniture doesn’t take long to install; it only takes a few days.”
The final detail in the building that poses a greater difficulty due to the COVID-19 outbreak is the technology. Much of the electronics come from outside of the United States, and sourcing them is challenged by the delays in shipping and global manufacturing.
“We will need to see if we have to improvise or use some of the old tech from Virtue Village,” said Dr. Greytok.
Despite the hindrance in the construction of the new Middle School, Dr. Greytok has not been disheartened and visions a successful year ahead.
Dr. Greytok said, “I’m super excited to get into a new building and to start classes up again on campus.”