Prototype School Becomes Source of Pride for Georgia's East Point Community
When we first stepped onto the Asa G. Hilliard (formerly Mount Olive Elementary School) campus in 2014, we faced an overcrowded, 50-year-old building in desperate need of updates and repairs. When we completed construction 13 months later, however, the East Point community of Georgia had a beautiful, new school that will provide a safe and modern learning environment and be a source of pride for decades to come.
In construction as in life, we sometimes have to first tear things down in order to build them back up. This project, completed for Fulton County Schools, first involved the complete demolition of Mount Olive Elementary School. Because of the complex demolition and site work, there were fewer than twelve months available to complete the project before students needed to occupy the building for the new school year. This tight schedule was not made any easier by the over 100 rain days experienced that year; despite these obstacles, Balfour Beatty was able to deliver the new school on time, delighting the 850 children who now learn and grow there.
Building the Best for Student Achievement
The new Asa G. Hilliard Elementary School is a three-story, 126,612-square-foot elementary school designed by Atlanta architect, Collins Cooper Carusi. This building is a prototype for the Fulton County Board of Education, developed specifically to address the limited availability of large, flat parcels within the county. This unique design is structured to fit on existing sites with a sloping topography, as is commonly found in the Atlanta area. The school is organized in a linear east-west direction with K-5 classrooms stacked within the west wing and core functions stacked at the east end of the building, creating a vertical column of core spaces which can be isolated from classroom spaces for after-school and community functions.
Through its simple, linear layout, the school not only becomes less confusing for young children but also provides outstanding visual observation for administration and staff. This organization is designed to ensure maximum natural light within the corridors and within each classroom, taking advantage of Atlanta’s many sunny days for substantial energy savings and creating a healthy learning environment. The exterior, comprised of brick veneer and cast stone trim, provides long-term durability against the effects of weather and also minimizes the need for costly, ongoing maintenance.
No Impact to Neighbors and the Community
The project site at Asa G. Hilliard Elementary School is located in a very busy and central part of East Point. Neighboring residents are as close as 75 feet from school grounds, putting them at risk of noise disturbances and traffic concerns. To ensure zero disruptions for these neighboring residents, the project team’s number one priority before construction commenced was to facilitate open communication with the East Point community. To accomplish this, the project team walked door-to-door to greet neighbors and encourage positive communication surrounding the project. In addition, two town hall meetings, facilitated by Fulton County Schools, Balfour Beatty and Collins Cooper Carusi, were held at local schools to inform the community about construction-related activities. The purpose of these meetings was to inform the community of construction schedules, traffic changes and general expectations during the course of the project. These meetings were held on a quarterly basis to ensure the community was kept up-to-date on the project’s progress. Community members were able to voice concerns and ask questions about the construction process with our team’s full attention.
Going Above and Beyond
The roadway surrounding the school was riddled with potholes prior to construction. A partial section of the main lane/median surrounding the school was included in the project contract to be re-milled. The community voiced their concerns over potholes in the section of roadway that were not slated for repair. Our team went above and beyond by re-milling the entire lane/median to ensure the community was happy with the roadway on which they would be driving every day.
Overcoming Rain Days
During the course of construction, the Asa G. Hilliard team accumulated more than 100 rain days. Over 58 inches of rain saturated the site – a statistic much higher than normal for this area. The team worked additional hours during the day and on weekends to make up this time. Pull planning was also essential in meeting the project schedule. Even with these unique constraints and the already tight schedule, we successfully moved administration, faculty and students into the elementary school in time for the start of the 2015 school year.
Comparing the school today to what it was just a few short years ago is nothing short of astonishing. By replacing the antiquated building that did not meet Fulton County’s evolving technological and academic needs, Balfour Beatty helped make a significant investment in the future of East Point, Georgia. Our goal was to not only build a new school but also to build it in a way that transforms the lives of students, faculty and the community at large – and it’s safe to say this was accomplished at Asa G. Hilliard Elementary School.