As is the case every summer, the public school board has numerous construction projects happening all over the county in hopes of getting them completed by the time the kids return in September.
One of the Simcoe County District School Board's most high-profile project, however, is the new high school being built in south-end Barrie at Mapleview Drive East and Prince William Way. It has been dubbed South Barrie Secondary School until it gets its official moniker somewhere down the line when it nears completion.
The high school will have capacity for 1,000 students and cover a total area of 12,610 square metres. The building includes a three-level walkout, specialized tech rooms, two sports fields (one natural and the other artificial) and an eight-lane all-weather track.
"It's similar to what a walkout basement would look like in a residential home," Kim Pickett, the school board's manager of design and construction, told BarrieToday. "Level 2 is really the main level and then Level 3 is the second storey you'll see out of the ground."
Work at the school site continues with the placement of footings, laying of the concrete slab and putting up the walls.
"Because of the topography of the site itself, they have to do various things along the way. It's not as easy as just putting slab on grade and then going from there," said Pickett, adding she has received comments from people that the building isn't progressing.
"It's coming along, but it will look very similar as people are driving by," she added. "From the road, it doesn't really look that different, because of the way the three levels are being built, but we are making progress."
The projected opening date for the new South Barrie Secondary School is September 2020.
When it opens, it will initially only be for Grade 9 and 10 students, mostly from Innisdale Secondary School, where the new school will "alleviate some of the attendance pressures," Pickett said.
"The senior grades are going to finish off their career at the schools they're currently attending," she said. "We don't want to pull peer groups away and have students start with a new set of peers. So, the capacity at the start will not be what the on-the-ground capacity is (once it's fully open)."
With some much growth happening in the southeast end of the city, the new school is direly needed.
"When you drive by the location, you can see the new subdivisions under construction, or about to be under construction," Pickett said. "It's definitely needed."
Some of the other outdoor projects happening at schools in the city include repaving the parking lots at Holly Meadows Elementary School on Mapleton Avenue and West Bayfield Elementary School on Ford Street, as well as roof repairs at Allandale Heights Public School on Bayview Drive.
"We have about 80 projects overall across the county, and I would say approximately 15 to 20 of them are happening in the city of Barrie," Pickett said.
At Eastview Secondary School, the board is completing phase three of a multi-year project. This year includes interior renewal with the mechanical system as well as renovations to the tech classroom and upgrades to the fire-proofing.
"We've been at Eastview for the past two summers and we will be back there next summer, as well, finishing things off," Pickett said.
Board officials are used to dealing with a tight timeline each summer.
"It's tricky for us and it's tricky for the contractors, because there's not a lot of time to get things done," Pickett said. "If you consider the two short weeks, with July 1 and Aug. 1, they really have about six weeks of work to actually get things completed."
Elsewhere around Simcoe County, the board has dozens of other projects on the go.
Outside of the city, the board is also building an addition onto Cameron Street Public School in Collingwood. Landscaping was also recently completed at the new high school in Midland. Several other schools are also getting new roofs and stormwater management upgrades.
The board also has to contend with weather conditions and the workforce to make sure its projects get done on time.
"It's typical in terms of the level of projects and the busyness, but it was atypical at the start," Pickett said. "Some of the things that were challenges for us were the weather obviously in April and May, when it was very wet and we got off to a slow start on some of our projects.
"In addition, the plumbers were on strike, as were the sheet-metal workers," she added. "The plumbers went back to work in June and the sheet-metal workers went back just before the beginning of July, so we were able to ensure that none of our projects were delayed from the strikes. We were busy trying to come up with contingency plans if those trades did go on strike and how that would affect our projects."