It’s the most wonderful time of the year for many local contractors: school construction season.
Both the Simcoe County District School Board and the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board are currently working away at school construction projects. This summer, the public board’s to-do list will see $25.8 million spent across their board, while the Catholic board is spending $4 million.
“This has been a challenging construction season,” said Corry Van Nispen, the public board’s superintendent of building and facilities services. “We are seeing timelines on projects being extended due to a shortage of skilled labour and delays or lack of access to materials.
“All of those concerns and challenges relate to dollar challenges as well,” he said.
In Midland and area, Tay Shores Public School in Victoria Harbour will be having additional parking installed, while St. Theresa’s Catholic High School will be getting plumbing fixture upgrades.
Some projects that were slated to be completed this summer had to be pushed to next year due to rising construction costs, Van Nispen explained.
“When we went out to tender, the prices came in significantly higher than what we had budgeted for projects, and what we had expected even with increases in pricing. We have moved projects to next summer, hopefully when the market stabilizes,” said Van Nispen.
Van Nispen says the public board has a five-year capital plan with all needed school improvements ranked according to urgency, and the board will continue to work at the list.
“If we get additional funding, we add more of the projects from that list to the current construction. Every year we review and update that list,” he said.
Craig Elliot, manager of capital projects for the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board, says supply chain challenges have also impacted school construction this summer for his board.
“What it takes is for contractors to think about how they do construction in a pandemic,” said Elliot. “(We’ve noted) they’re moving to ordering materials ahead of when they’ll need them and doing some work out of normal sequence to accommodate the delivery of the materials. The supply is there, but the contractors have to be more strategic in how they’re procuring materials.”
Overall, Elliot says the Catholic board is in “good shape” when it comes to keeping up with school repairs, and as of the beginning of July, was still on-time and on-budget for their planned repairs.
“You never know what challenges you might face through construction, but we’ve been OK from that perspective,” he said.
This fall, two new public schools are expected to open their doors to students: Harvest Hills Public School and Marshview Public School, both in Bradford West Gwillimbury.
At the beginning of June, parents/guardians of students scheduled to attend Marshview in the fall were informed that construction of the school is behind schedule and the school will not be ready for the first day of school in September. A revised opening date has been set for November 2022.
Within the Catholic board, two more schools are expected to open their doors this fall: St. Cecilia Catholic School in Alliston, and a replacement school for St. Charles Catholic Elementary School in Bradford.