Construction on Marco Island Academy’s new school building is progressing nicely, despite heavy rain in recent weeks, including the effects of Tropical Storm Sally that passed through the area over the weekend.
A lot of progress has been made in the two months since The Coastal Breeze last reported on construction on July 19, when workers were just starting on the second floor of the building.
“I’ve been very happy with the progress—except for the rain,” said Wayne Herbert, Superintendent of the project being completed by GATES Construction. “The rain is killing me.”
Recent heavy rains have made the going tough for the GATES Construction team. Getting the building enclosed will speed things up.
“We’re close to enclosing the building,” Herbert explained. “We’re a good month away. The roofing has started already. I’m ready for the gym; I’ve got it all scheduled. The gym is going to be first, then I’m going to jump over to the high roof. The high roof is the three-story classroom facility. It’s going pretty well. I would say by October 15 the whole building should be totally enclosed. Then you’re going to see things start progressing quickly. ”
Herbert emphasized that the building will be enclosed, not finished by October 15.
“Watertight,” he noted. “We want to get it watertight.”
A lot of the inside work so far has been framing. Metal stud framing is the skeleton of a building. It is the framework for the interior layout.
“You can see on the first floor that we’ve done framing,” said Herbert. “We’re two weeks away from finishing all the framing down there, then we’ll jump to the second floor. We’ve already jumped to the second floor above where the gym is.”
A unique feature of the new high school is the patio above the entrance that will overlook San Marco Road, Georgia Fruit Farm Creek and the mangrove forest beyond.
“The steelwork is going to be done by Wednesday, September 16,” Herbert said. “The steelwork and the decking will be on for the patio that comes off of the third floor. That’s really cool. It’s really nice. You’re going to have a nice view and everything. We’re working on that.
“The patio is going to face the street,” Herbert continued. “Just imagine being on that patio that is almost three floors up. It’s going to be an eating area for the kids. It will also be sort of a wind-down area for them. It’s going to be real nice.”
“It’s going to be the Lookout Lounge,” MIA’s Dean of Students Kevin Ray added. “That’s what we’re going to call it. It’s where students are going to eat lunch.”
Herbert feels another unique feature of the new Marco Island Academy building is the flow of the building and the size of the classrooms.
“This is a beautiful building to have here on Marco,” he said. “It’s very functional. It’s going to have great traffic flow to it. To have big classrooms in this day and age is a must. Most classrooms are loaded up and they’re just too small. This school can accommodate a larger number of people. I think that’s helpful.”
One of the most striking features of the large classrooms is the huge picture windows that provide striking vistas.
“I’ve got to give the architect, John Szerdi, all the credit in the world for that,” Herbert said. “It used to be you couldn’t see outside in a classroom. Here you’ve got the view of the wetlands. I think having the natural light and the atmosphere is good for the kids as well.”
Herbert is also fond of the school’s versatile gymnasium as he remarked, “They’re going to have a lot to offer to the community. The gym is not just a gym. It has a stage; it has an audio system so they can have performances as well. They can have plays, they can do what they want, they can have outsiders come in and use the facility.”
Herbert is also enthusiastic about something exciting this is coming outside of the building.
“We will be building a beautiful soccer field eventually,” he said. “Wait till you see that. After school’s out we’ll start that. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Herbert is thankful for the smooth working relationship he has enjoyed with MIA Principal Melissa Scott and Ray. Ray has a construction background that has proved invaluable during the project.
“The school people have been great,” he said. “I think everybody’s cooperating. All across the board, I think everybody is happy.”
Herbert also appreciates Jane Watt, the Board Chair for MIA. Watt started the school with an idea back in 2009.
“Jane Watt has been great,” he said. “Everybody’s been really helpful. It’s not just me. It’s the Gates team, Todd Gates, John Hayes, Steve Ryan. You can’t do this alone. This is not just one body. I’ve got really good backup with everybody.”
Herbert declined to speculate on a completion date.
“We would love to start next school year in the building,” Ray said. “By next August, we’d love to be in the building, operational with kids.”
Ray emphasized that the Marco community deserves a lot of credit for the new school.
“I think it’s a testament to the community,” Ray said. “This is community built.”