New Priceville High

Claudio Hernandez installs the wooden floor in the auditorium of the new Priceville High School last week. The Morgan County school board terminated the contract of GBW Architects last week.

PRICEVILLE — Although Morgan County school leaders fired the design team for the new Priceville High School, construction continues and likely will be completed by the end of the year.

But Superintendent Bill Hopkins Jr. said he’s not optimistic students will be able to move into the facility in December as planned.

“I’m very optimistic about the building being done before the year is over,” he said, “but having it done and having things ready for classes are two different things.”

Disagreements about how some parts of the school were constructed between GBW Architects, which designed the school, and Baggette Construction, which is building the facility, caused delays and led to the board terminating GBW on Tuesday.

The board authorized Hopkins to hire another architectural firm for the project, but he’s not sure how long the process will take or what kind of further delays will result from “this unfortunate situation.”

The school was slated to open in August, but was delayed until December.

The city of Priceville gave the school district $50,000 to help move into the 119,000-square-foot school on Bethel Road near North Park, but the move is not as simple as picking up a desk, school leaders said.

They said students will have new classroom assignments and that teachers have to move materials they use daily.

“This is a big assignment to try to do over the holidays,” Hopkins said.

Deputy Superintendent Lee Willis said the system also has to move hundreds of computers and make sure they are working.

The superintendent said the first priority for the school district is to close the relationship with GBW, which was being paid 6 percent of the estimated $23.8 million cost of the project as state law allows.

Hopkins said he wasn’t sure how much GBW had been paid and what the district still owes the Decatur-based company.

“The attorneys are working that out,” he said.

According to the October construction check registry, GBW had received a little more than $1.2 million for work on the project.

GBW architect John Godwin did not attend the meeting when GBW’s contract was terminated, but he said the company stands by its original position that the school is structurally unsafe.

Hopkins said he is talking with several firms about replacing GBW. State law does not require the school district to accept bids for GBW’s replacement.

The new design team, however, will play a critical role before students move into the building. State law requires the firm to sign the certificate of substantial completion, which validates the safety of the building.

School officials said the new company also likely will assume the liability for work GBW has called unsafe.

Volkert Construction Vice President Leon Barkan said last week the school is about 95 percent complete. The board paid Volkert $1.2 million to supervise construction projects that included the high school.

Deangelo McDaniel can be reached at 256-340-2469 or Follow on Twitter @DD_Deangelo.
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(1) comment

John Kwy

Hopkins is looking for a scapegoat.

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