SPECIAL REPORT, ON LOCATION: Construction Site Unifies Talent & Hard Work Even as it Unifies the Schools

Ted Frascella and Cary Rivera

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This special report, from the construction zone itself, aims to bring meaning and background to the hard work of the construction professionals working all around us every day. Please click on the slideshow of images for more views from the site itself.

STANWICH SCHOOL/SPECIAL REPORT, ON LOCATION – Since the summertime, seeing trucks transport tons of gravel and rock as well as huge excavators and cranes has been commonplace on the Stanwich campus.  

Now it’s wintertime and things are changing while we know little about the people doing the work.

Despite seeing many presentations with 3-D renderings of what the new GCDS Upper School facility will look like and having front row seats to the construction, we hardly know anything about those who actually work on site. The Stanwich Post paid a visit to a few of the operating sites around the 257 Stanwich Road campus and with our guide and construction lead Jack Mappa.  He works as a field engineer overseeing the construction.  We were able to get some greater insight into what daily operation is like while building the GCDS High School.

Before the tour Mr. Mappa gave some insight into his background, his role on site and what working on the Stanwich Campus has been like so far.  Mr. Mappa graduated from Bucknell University with a civil engineering degree which allowed him to land a job at the construction company that is overseeing GCDS operations, Turner.  When in the field, he serves as a superintendent, overseeing the work of the subcontractors and making sure all operations are safe and efficient. However, this has been the first school Mr. Mappa has been a part of constructing.

“Every site has it’s obstacles,” he said.  “At a school some of the biggest challenges we work around are the drop-off and pick-up times.  We have to make sure all of our equipment is safely away from anywhere parents or kids may be getting dropped off or picked up at the beginning and end of the school day.”

The Post was taken on a tour of the building site in front of the main campus building.

The first site that we toured was the foundation for the new science labs that are being built where the hill in front of the school once stood.  Since it seems like quite a feat to remove an entire hill, we asked about the process that the construction team took to do such a thing and then construct a building.

The first step is to blast the hill with dynamite and clear all of the excess rocks and debris.  The next step involves laying the concrete foundation and constructing a steel skeleton to hold up the building.  The last steps of the project will include adding the exterior walls and windows as well as making the building watertight and furnishing the interior.

After describing the process that will be employed for the building out front, Mr. Mappa took The Post around the back of the campus, near Wildwood, and gave a tour of the building sites in the forest behind the school.  Massive clearings have been made to facilitate the operations of big construction vehicles like excavators, backhoes and cranes on what seems like mountains of stone, wood chips and gravel. The excess debris from the forest clearing will be where much of the raw materials like wood and stone will be reused into other parts of the new construction projects.  There are 80 trees that were cut down from the back being stored near the teacher’s parking lot for future use.

While seeing the construction out back was very interesting, we couldn’t help but be reminded of the blasting incident earlier in the year that occurred when a rock flew through the storage tent and made a dent in the concrete floor below.

When asked what improvements were made to increase safety after that incident took place, Mr. Mappa illuminated us to what the aftermath of that looked like and what steps were taken to make the process safer.

“There were about 10 meetings between Turner, the blasting company, subcontractors and other blasting companies to review what had happened, we reviewed what were the factors that caused it and how we could better prevent it from happening again.  We also tripled the amount of blasting mats used so it could hold down debris better.”

It seems that blasting is a very work-intensive and it’s a dangerous process so it is reassuring to know that all steps are being taken to make it as safe as possible.

Turner claims to be on pace for finishing the project in time, but the summer is set to be a busy one.  The two months when campus will be empty will be the most efficient working months and they will need to be since the rest of the school is set to be ready by Fall 2019, but with the team and operations that we witnessed, that should be more than possible.

“There’s never a dull moment out here,” said Mr. Mappa.

While the process is undoubtedly satisfying for those working on it, it should also be just as exciting to watch from the perspective of the future students, teachers and administrators.  Hardly anyone has the chance to watch their new school be built before their very eyes and this opportunity is one that we all can appreciate.

Story by Ted Frascella, Editor-in-Chief

Contributions by Carylin Rivera, Reporter

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