November 01, 2012
The Guilford County Board of Education held a meeting at High Point
Central High School on Monday, Oct. 29 to try to pacify angry parents after a second major delay of the $5.3 million project to renovate the High Point
Central gym. Guilford County Board of Education Chairman Alan Duncan called the project a train wreck.
Duncan said, "It's particularly troublesome to watch this train wreck happen in slow motion."
It's hard to remember the school board being more apologetic.
Time and again, the school board members present said, "We're sorry," or, "I'm sorry."
Duncan and school board members Sandra Alexander, Paul Daniels and Darlene Garrett attended the meeting, along with Guilford County School Superintendent Mo Green. The school board holds such special meetings at schools when a particular situation has gotten so bad that parents can't be mollified with press releases.
The school board members had two barrels of complaints fired at them at the same time – complaints about the fact that two general contractors in a row haven't finished a $5.3 million project to renovate and expand the boys' varsity gym and make some repairs inside the school, and stronger complaints that High Point
Central needs more space.
Duncan kicked off the apology-a-thon by acknowledging that the construction program at Central "has not gone as smoothly as people hoped it would go," and the apologies got more specific and more lavish as the night went on.
The meeting was held in the girls' gym – the old main gym in the main High Point
Central building – which was fairly full, despite the fact that the school's Connect-ED robocaller was down the day before, preventing the school from calling most parents. That was the story, in any case.
The immediate reason for the meeting was to inform parents that, despite years of work and contrary to what they had been told for months, the gym won't be ready for use until at least January.
That's a hard blow to a family whose child is playing basketball. High school is short, and a lost season of at-home games can't be recovered.High Point
Central Principal Bob Christina did his best to make lemons out of lemonade, announcing that the school would, by the upcoming weekend, have the main gym floor adapted to be playable for practices – how was not made clear, as Price has reported that the floor has water underneath it as a result of the botched construction job.
Christina also announced, as if it were good news, that High Point
Central has permission to use the Southwest High School gym for home games through Jan. 4.
"The most exciting piece is that we're going to High Point
University on Nov. 30, and we're going to play High Point
Andrews at High Point
University's gymnasium," Christina said. "It's an opportunity for our kids to be in a collegiate atmosphere."
Christina said the Central-Andrews game will be run like a college game, with players' names and pictures thrown up on the Jumbotron. "We're moving in a positive direction," he said.
It's both nice, and smart PR, for High Point
University President Nido Qubein to throw the university gym open for the big Central-Andrews game. But the overall package didn't leave parents beaming with joy at the "positive direction" in which the school was moving.
"We're grateful to get the new floor," said Theresa Franklin, a former co-president of the High Point
Central Parent Teacher Student Association. "We hope it is improved. But it's frustrating to parents. We have lost students to other schools."
As for playing at Southwest, Franklin said the High Point
Central team isn't welcome there. "They don't want us there," she said. "I've talked to parents, and they're like, 'You're going to be here again?'"
Carolyn York, whose daughter is on the girls' varsity basketball team, said her daughter is losing her motivation because of the loss of energy a team has when not playing at home. She said an opposing team at a game at Southwest dressed up in construction gear to mock the High Point
Central team for not having a gym.
"The kids are the ones who are suffering," York said. "If this was a private-sector thing, it would have long ago been done."
But it's not a private-sector thing.
The current general contractor for the High Point
Central project is KMD Construction LLC of Salisbury. The school board's architect for the project, HH Architecture of Raleigh, claims that numerous elements of the gym project are behind schedule and the gym will miss the Nov. 14 contract deadline. But the delay in the High Point
Central project has been longer than that.
On Nov. 8, 2011, the school board voted unanimously to terminate its contract with Miles Builders of Charlotte, the main contractor on the High Point
Central project, which had fallen more than a month behind. The school board claimed that Miles Builders has violated the contract in multiple ways, including falling months behind schedule and not paying subcontractors on time.
After bidding the project in February 2012, in April 2012, the bonding company on the project hired KMD to take over, and, in November 2012, a year after the school board fired Miles Builders, the job still won't be done on deadline.
Duncan said the bonding company still has control of the project. He said, in response to the complaints, that the project was now out of the school board's hands.
A bonding company provides insurance that a job will be done on time and well. If a contractor fails to live up to its timeline or contract, the bonding company takes over the construction project, hiring a new contractor if needed.
As Guilford County Schools
Director of Construction Julius Monk said, "Unfortunately, it's a little bit different situation now that the bonding company is in charge of the project."
A delay by the second contractor on the project, combined with Guilford County Schools
running up costs in working around the unfinished gym, makes it quite possible that the project will end up in a lawsuit between the school system and the bonding company – something Tom Smothers, the son of High Point
Mayor Becky Smothers, pointed out.Guilford County Schools
is trying to get a reliable timeline for the project, and Duncan said the school board will communicate any further delays to the High Point
Central community. He said, "We are very hopeful we don't have to communicate that any more."
Why Duncan said "any more" is a mystery. The school board hasn't been communicating with parents honestly throughout the construction project. On the High Point
Central website, there are no updates on the project between a May 1, 2012 announcement of the KMD contract and a breathless Oct. 15, 2012 posting that High Point
Central was super-duper excited that it wouldn't be playing its home games at home.
The school system's Nov. 8, 2011, press release about the delay was even more misleading – if only because the press release, which was full of bad news, was headlined, "High Point
Central Ready for Basketball Season."...continued on page 2