COOS BAY — At the start of August, the site of the future Marshfield Junior High School was a mostly flat plot with a series of concrete foundations.
Fast forward a few weeks and now the site includes tall walls that will form the first two floors of the school, which is scheduled to open in time for the 2021-22 school year.
The quick change in appearance comes courtesy of the style of construction. Rather than the often-used masonry method of construction, building by layers of bricks from the ground up, the framework for the school is in the form of giant pre-cast concrete panels, made at a Knife River plant near Harrisburg.
Setting the 156 panels in place was expected to take six weeks, but the firm doing that portion of the project, Precision Precast Erectors, did it in just four.
“From my perspective, it’s a ballet,” said Nancy Giggy, the owner and business manager of Integrity Management Solutions, the contract manager for the project. “That crane and these skilled people who put the panels up — it’s an amazing feat.”
Amazing because of the sheer size of the precast panels, which range in size from 15 to 30 feet tall and seven to 12 inches in width. The heaviest weighs about 24 tons, Giggy said.
The tallest ones will be walls for two stories of the school — the top floor will be built with steel framing.
Now that the panels are in place, work is being done on the floor and to set the trusses so the floor can be completed and the third floor framing can be put up. If the program stays at its current pace — Giggy said it’s slightly ahead of schedule — work on the roof for the new school will begin in November.
“This is a remarkably quick process as compared to masonry,” Giggy said.
It’s usually more expensive, too, which is why the new Eastside School, which is being opened this fall, was made with the masonry method. But early in the design phase for the new junior high, market conditions made masonry more expensive.
“Pre-cast was the way to go,” Giggy said.
The fast-moving progress for the framing of the school has drawn a lot of eyes of observers, especially from above.
The birds-eye view from the parking lot for Marshfield High School shows that the giant trusses for the gymnasium and commons are already in place.
What it doesn’t show, though, is one of the unique features of the interior walls.
The wall for the hall is adorned with images of trees, created on the panels as part of the casting process. The wall for the commons also is adorned, but with more of a modern art look.
And on the outside of the building, most of the panels are gray, but some are more a rust color.
Giggy said that will help the building look more attractive, not just gray.
Giggy said the project is going well, and praised the flexibility of Chambers Construction, the general contractor, as well as the subcontractors and especially the school district.
“The district really has been remarkable,” she said. “They’ve put a lot of time and effort into really trying to think about everything (with the project).
“They’ve had great leadership and great input from the staff.”