North Hills months behind West View Elementary captured vestibule project

October 13, 2018

Efforts to improve the security at the West View Elementary School building by reconfiguring the main entrance have been hampered by delays in obtaining custom-fabricated components needed for the project, according to the project’s architect.

In April the North Hills school board agreed to add a so-called “capture vestibule” to the building that would serve as a secure holding area to prevent anyone who comes through the front doors from venturing farther into the building.

The work was supposed to be completed by the time students returned from summer break in late August.

But the project is not expected to be completed until early November, according to Jon Thomas of Thomas & Williamson Program Management, which designed the vestibule.

“In past years we’ve done projects where we’ve done everything we could to use off-the-shelf materials,” Thomas said, noting that much of the material for the expansion at McIntyre Elementary were easily obtained “so we didn’t have any fabrication going on to slow down the progress.”

“With this project, we didn’t have that luxury,” Thomas said.

Some of the items that have to be made-to-order include a skylight, the glass and metal “storefront” that serves as the main structure of the vestibule, as well as doors and windows.

Thomas said weather also has impacted progress.

“The roofing and sheet metal trim has been ready to go (since the end of September),” he said, adding that contractors have been trying to do the work “in between rainstorms.”

Adding the capture vestibule to serve as a secure holding area is part of the district’s efforts to bolster the safety of students and staff.

Once the captured vestibule is completed, visitors will be buzzed in and then wait in an enclosed area equipped with bulletproof glass until their credentials are checked.

Although considered a small project, Thomas said creating the vestibule has also been made “challenging” because the original entrance to the building is not accessible for people with physical limitations.

As a result, contractors had to construct modifications to allow people who use wheelchairs to enter the building.

Several board members were upset that the project is not done.

“This is really frustrating on the part of the board because we spent an awful lot of time thinking about how to make our students safer,” said board member Annette Giovengo-Nolish. “This is something that we agreed on last spring.”

While Thomas acknowledged the board’s frustration, he said the delays in obtaining materials is beyond the scope of his contract for the project.

He said while he typically performs construction management as part of the work he does for the district, for this project he was only hired to do the design work.

“I have some regular check-ins (with the contractors) and don’t charge for that,” he said, adding that he also has not billed the district for time spent appearing before the board to provide updates or answer questions.

But “we’re not doing procurement management and monitoring the purchase of materials,” he said. “You didn’t hire me to do that here.”

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