GREENSBORO, N.C. — There's a lot of ongoing progress at Guilford County Schools.
We're seeing new signage up outside the location where the new schools are being built. Each sign shows what phase the school is in, but what does it mean?
We talked to the experts and had them break it down for us.
A lot goes into building one school, but rebuilding and renovating 44 schools and constructing seven new ones is a complete school district transformation.
It can be a lot to process, so we spoke with the experts about the timeline and what goes into each phase.
Winston McGregor serves as the President of the Guilford Education Alliance. She's been a part of the long process of getting to where the district is today.
McGregor described the rigorous process. She said it involved surveying each school and ranking each from worst to best.
Crews went out and figured out the total cost of repairs, renovations, or complete rebuilds.
Not only that, but McGregor said to get the city, county school, and community leaders on board took some time.
All of this finally lead to the 2020 and 2022 vote, where voters approved two capital bonds totaling two billion dollars.
"We're making historic investments, but that's been a journey," said Winston McGregor.
She said while passing the 2 billion dollar bond was a challenging process that took years to accomplish, building the schools is the next big hurdle.
"Hire project managers, hire architects, think about design phases, there's a lot of government process here," said Winston McGregor. "You don't just pass a bond and start building a school, this is a long project to come, to see everything come out of the ground."
This brings us to where we are today. There are six school rebuilds in the works now.
At each school, you'll see a sign showing what phase it's in.
But what does each phase mean?
To make it simple, there are the phases before construction and then the phases during construction.
Let's break them down.
Phase 1: Pre-design
Monte Edwards is an outside contractor and one of the project managers for Guilford County Schools' construction.
He said in the pre-design phase, this is all about community input.
"This is where we engage not only staff, students, and parents, but the community, to make sure that these designs are truly what is wanted by that community if, you will, as well as looking at learning techniques of the future to make sure that it all comes together from a design perspective," said Monte Edwards.
Edwards said that process of meeting with the community takes about two months.
This is where things like safety, learning spaces, and the overall look and design of the school get brought up for discussion.
Once the input sessions are done, then it's time for the design process.
Phase 2: Design
"Everything that we saw and we picked up from the pre-design process, we incorporate into the design process," said Edwards.
In the design process, Edwards said this is where the experts combine all of those ideas from the input meetings will be combined and go into one master plan.
From that master plan, the group will look at it and continue giving feedback and updating the plan until it is carefully crafted.
This process takes about eight to nine months to determine the final plan.
"As construction managers and program managers, we're looking at the constructability of the designs, you know, some architects are visionaries if you will, they put the greatest ideas there, and typically they understand building standards, but every now and then, we'll come in and say hey, we have to talk about what we can truly build," said Edwards.
Once the document is finalized, that allows crews to move into the bid process.
Phase 3: Bid
"The bid process, it can be long, it depends," said Edwards.
Edwards said this is where he and his team look for the businesses to do the work.
They get bids from plumbers, engineers, roofers, electricians, and anyone else that is needed to get the job done and build the school.
Bids go out and compare different prices between businesses, working to get the best pricing to get the job done.
There's also a major push to keep it local and hire minority and women-owned businesses for the job.
Edwards said while it's great that North Carolina, especially the Triad, is growing, adding thousands of jobs and building the economy, it can be a challenge for these builds.
"There are a lot of subcontractors in the marketplace, but there's so much work going on right now in this state that we really have to do a great job making sure that they see how amazing of a program this is to make sure that they get very interested to bid," said Edwards.
After the bids are finalized, then comes construction.
Phase 4: Construction
Construction is where the dirt gets moved, the walls go up, and the carefully designed school begins to take shape.
This takes about 15 months to do, as long as things go smoothly.
"You hope for great weather, but we plan, and that's a part of our jobs though, we help plan for weather conditions, and that sort of thing to make sure we're staying on what's called a 'critical path', to make sure that we open on that day because you know with schools, you have to open," said Edwards.
That brings us to the last and final step, the completion and occupancy process.
Phase 5: Completion and Occupancy
This phase is where crews will go through the school. They find everything that needs to be touched up, like paint, tightening any screws, and making everything polished.
Edwards said they make sure it's up to standard and then work with school staff for any needed adjustments.
This will take about two months.
"Really it's just buttoning up the project, making it as perfect as it can be before students and staff get into the facility," said Edwards.
The total timeframe from pre-design to completion and occupancy is roughly two years.
There are currently six schools with a tentative 2024 Fall opening date. Each school is in the construction process currently.
After a build is complete, McGregor said it's important for everyone in the school system, city, and county to maintain the schools within the district. She said she hopes a process like this never has to happen again.
"We shouldn't ever go to sleep again at the wheel and not make regular investments," said McGregor. "How we approach financing school construction, managing school construction, and maintaining schools is important so that we don't have to do this kind of giant bond again."
To keep an eye on each project, there is an updated list and description on Guilford County Schools Website.