Hayden school opening postponed due to COVID-19 construction delays
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Due to COVID-19 related delays, the new pre-K through 12th-grade school in Hayden will not open its doors in fall 2020 as planned.
“While construction has continued to move forward on our new building, and we were ahead of schedule two weeks ago, it is with great sadness that I bring you the latest update,” Superintendent Christy Sinner wrote in a letter to families. “With the impact that COVID 19 has had on businesses being open and the parameters put in place by Routt County, the opening of the building is delayed. At this point in time, we can’t predict or anticipate a completion date.”
Across the nation, construction projects are facing delays. The guidelines and public health orders governing the construction industry vary state by state and county by county.
Some states have essentially banned all construction. Others are only allowing certain projects to move forward, with restrictions.
For those who continue to operate, there are many new challenges:
Supply chains are being disrupted by travel restrictions, outbreaks, social distancing, closures and quarantines, and the availability of contractor workforces and government inspectors also is causing challenges.
Federal guidelines permit essential projects, and that word is left relatively open to interpretation by local governments.
On its “Frequently Asked Questions” page, Routt County advises, “any construction that is not essential to public health, safety or infrastructure that can feasibly be put on hold for the time being should be.”
And on hiring, “Routt County asks for the use of local crews only, which do not leave for other counties, states or countries. This is very important, and when possible, avoid this at all costs, utilize local contractors whenever possible.”
For a project like the Hayden school, which is well underway and using a significant number of crews who commute from out of the county, the county advises, “if there are no options for local subcontractors on essential commercial construction projects and outside resources are required, then please ensure they do not leave on a weekly basis. We recommend they stay for a duration of three to four weeks minimum, or until the work is completed when less than three or four weeks.”
On housing, the county advises, “Construction workers can stay in local lodging … and can be classified as local workers. These workers should remain in the county and not travel somewhere else and return (e.g., weekend travel).”
The extension of the county’s short-term lodging ban until May 31 will delay things further, Sinner said.
While workers are permitted to stay in local lodging, Sinner said short-term leases can be hard to come by, and many don’t want to be away from home and their families for weeks at a time, she said.
Construction sites are also directed to reduce workers on site by a minimum of 50%.
In her letters to families, Sinner stated, “Some delays known to date are the elevator, kitchen appliances (the factory is currently closed), furniture, decrease in available manpower due to distancing and travel requirements, reprioritization of critical trades to time sensitive hospital projects and state inspection scheduling just to name a few.”
Sinner said crews had been pulled off Hayden school to move to a hospital project, and state inspections have been halted.
She said the project has been adhering to every restriction in place and has adapted by staggering schedules and operating seven days a week.
“We are disappointed, but we knew it was coming,” Sinner said.
About 20 miles down the road, the Steamboat Springs School District is preparing to break ground on its new pre-K through eighth-grade school.
Colleen Kaneda, the owners representative on the project, noted the situation is unprecedented, and there is no playbook. Nearly at the end of the planning and design phase, Kaneda said postponing construction could potentially mean having to rebid all contracts, and contractors and suppliers may not hold their prices.
For now, the district is giving the direction to move forward, she said. In terms of where the market is headed, Kaneda said it is impossible to predict. She said they are seeing some escalation in costs but also some increased competition for bids.
Steamboat Superintendent Brad Meeks said he doesn’t see any reason at this time to halt the process, especially as other construction projects also move forward.
“We will be proceeding with construction plans until we are told no more construction,” Meeks said.
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