Great Lakes students return to almost-renovated school

Workers continue to occupy the Great Lakes Secondary School site almost two years after its scheduled re-opening. Troy Shantz

Troy Shantz 

A $25.2-million renovation and addition at Great Lakes Secondary School is back on track after a new contractor was hired, says Brian McKay, the Lambton Kent District School Board’s business superintendent.

Wellington Builders Inc. replaced Jasper Construction in the spring and has since completed work on the instrumental and vocal music rooms, Indigenous studies centre, washrooms, and the auditorium vestibule.

Only the 550-seat auditorium remains unfinished.

But work at the Murphy Road school is a full two years behind the original schedule.

The site, formerly known as St. Clair Secondary, was chosen to accommodate SCITS high school students when SCITS closed and was renamed Great Lakes Secondary.

Major redevelopment of the 1960s-era St. Clair building and the addition of an auditorium was originally expected to be done by September 2018.

When renovations weren’t complete by September 2019, students began attending the school anyway while construction crews remained on site.

Students said workers were still milling around in the halls during class hours last year, the lunchroom and some classrooms remained closed, and the auditorium and other rooms were a construction zone.

So many delays plagued the project that Jasper Construction and the LKDSB parted ways in the spring shortly after COVID-19 restrictions shut down worksites across Ontario in March, McKay said.

“I can’t comment any further,” he said. “It was a mutual decision.”

When Great Lakes students returned to school earlier this month, Wellington Builders had met all their deadlines and the project was still within budget.

“They were right on (the new timelines),” said McKay. “They were tasked for getting those areas open for school start up, and yes, they were able to meet those timelines,” he said. “Our focus now is on the auditorium.”

A new ventilation system and air conditioning system was completed last year, and are at the levels required for controlling COVID-19 spread, McKay added. Roof work on the expansion and the original structure is also complete.

In August of 2017, the school board hired Concord-based Jasper Construction Corp. to handle the redevelopment at a cost of $23.4 million. That was about $5 million more than originally estimated. By 2018 the project ballooned to over $25 million.

Jasper Construction has been involved in several other projects plagued by delays across the province.

In July the City of Guelph fired Jasper after its $34 million police headquarters renovation project remained unfinished more than a year past deadline, Global News reported.

The City of London kicked Jasper off a $21 million community centre project shortly afterward.