OKEECHOBEE — The roof replacement at Central Elementary has been a yearlong headache for the Okeechobee County School District. It was originally scheduled to be completed before the 2019-20 school year. But after a series of setbacks experienced by the low-bid roofing contractor Property Renovation & Construction, the project’s completion date slipped past the Christmas break and into 2020.
But with the unexpected postponement of school due to COVID-19, the project may be finished within the month.
After the project missed its first completion date, work slowed to a crawl. With students in school from Monday through Friday, work on the roof could only be done on the weekends. Now, with students not scheduled to return until April 15 at the earliest, workers have the opportunity to finally finish the nearly yearlong project.
Okeechobee County School District Director of Operations Brian Barrett estimates the contractor may be finished by March 27.
The age of the roof at Central proved to be one of the hurdles the contractor had to get over. In September contractors discovered that additional materials were going to be needed to complete construction of the roof as they tore the old one away. At their Sept. 10 meeting, the Okeechobee County School Board had to approve two change orders for the project. The first change order approved was for $25,500 and was needed for the installation of additional materials under 25 air conditioning units on five buildings. The second change order was for $35,512 and was for new metal materials to replace older material that has rusted and needed to be sandblasted off.
A month and a half later, even more issues were discovered.
The most pressing finding was that there was nothing mechanically attaching the roof at Central Elementary to the building on the east and west ends. Only the weight of the previous four roofs were holding it down. Mr. Barrett said that it appears to be the way the roof was built back in 1958.
“How did it survive the hurricanes through the years?” asked Okeechobee County School Board member Jill Holcomb at a Dec. 10 meeting.
“Got lucky,” replied Mr. Barrett.
The roof at Central Elementary isn’t the only thing within the district getting worked on during the break. Mr. Barrett says that improvements are being made district-wide.
“We added a light pole and LED fixtures at the OHS gated entrance where the security monitor house is located,” said Mr. Barrett. “Lots of painting is being completed, mulch is being added to the playground play structure areas. Bus mechanics are in the shop and able to work on five buses that are down for major repairs. They are also able to work on some preventive maintenance issues during this time as well. Maintenance staff now has time to work on their backlogged maintenance work orders, many of which are difficult to safely complete while students are present.”