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Pleasant Gardens Elementary Builds on Its Own Bones

Wed April 19, 2000 - Southeast Edition
Giles Lambertson

Dennis Doyle was a student in Pleasant Gardens Elementary School in the western North Carolina town of Marion. That was some 30 years ago. Now he is tearing it down and building a new Pleasant Gardens Elementary.

Doyle Construction Co. of Lillington, NC, has the $4.2-million contract to move education into 21st century surroundings for students at Doyle’s old school.

The original structure is two stories tall and contains 2,700 square meters (30,000 sq. ft.) of classrooms, halls and auditorium. The wood-frame-and-brick structure has the hardwood floors typical of the era and imposing granite columns at its front entranceway.

Those architectural touches will largely be missing in the modern building, which will be a one-story structure on a concrete slab. The new classrooms, gymnasium, multipurpose rooms and library will come close to doubling the area of the old school: The new school will contain 4,860 square meters (54,000 sq. ft.).

G.M.K. Associates of Columbia, SC, did incorporate one feature of the old building into the new one. The twin granite columns, which are about 46 centimeters (18 in.) across, rise 660 centimeters (22 ft.) above the floor of the old building’s front entrance and are topped by an ornate “tobacco leaf” cap.

The architectural firm is having the columns cut down to 240 centimeters (8 ft.) and letting them stand watch over students entering the front door of the new building.

A third building on the site, which occupies 4 hectares (20 acres), is a freestanding cafeteria. That building will remain in use and be connected to the new school.

Project manager David Lane, who also is Doyle’s director of estimating, calls the new facility “a fairly standard building. The only construction element that is “a little different” is the roof system: trusses are constructed of light-gauge structural steel studding instead of from a more conventional lumber material.

Corridor walls inside the building are weight-bearing, cutting down effective truss spans. The steel trusses will go in place the same, aside from a different method of attaching wall tops to the metal truss members, Lane said.

The metal trusses are supplied by Trussway, a Florida firm that is affiliated with Superior Truss Co. of Liberty, NC, a maker of wood truss systems.

The school project is divided into four areas — A through D. The “A” area, which contains classrooms and connects to the cafeteria, is farthest along. Its slab has been poured.

Footings and foundations are in place for areas “B” and “C.” They house, respectively, the administrative office/library, and the multipurpose room/gym. Area “D”, will contain more classrooms inside its exterior and interior block walls.

In the last week of January, all of these stages of construction were sitting under 30 to 45 centimeters (12 to 18 in.) of snow, the biggest recorded snowfall in the state’s history.

Mountain areas nearest Marion can typically receive such amounts, but the dumping reaches two-thirds of the way across the state, stalling construction activity for a week.

Doyle Construction began work at the site in early October. Barring more snow, it will complete the job in stages. The first three areas of the new building are to be mostly finished by August, in time for students to start a new school year in a new building.

At that time, the old Pleasant Gardens school building will be razed and isolated areas” of parts “B” and “D” then will become the new priority, with their completion expected by March of 2001.

If that schedule can be adhered to, disruption of classroom activities will be minimal.

The project site is on a hill above a street and required “quite a lot of site work,” Lane said.

Alexander Grading of Swannanoa unloaded its Caterpillar and Komatsu dozers and Cat compactor at the site and before loading them again moved some 61,000 cubic meters (80,000 cu. yds.) of clay-type soil.

Cuts as deep as 450 centimeters (15 ft.) provided soil for the building area and created level areas that will be turned into soccer and baseball fields.

Other contractors on the job include Higgins Masonry of Morganton, NC, Pritchard Backhoe Service, also of Morganton, and Newton Concrete Service of Nebo, NC.

Dennis Doyle began his construction firm six years ago. Lane, 44, has been with the company for about a year and is one of four project managers — the only one wearing a second hat as estimator.

The company goal, Lane said, is to have six projects going at once — three in the western part and three in the eastern part of North Carolina.

At present, besides the Pleasant Gardens job, the company is contracted to build the $7-million Southern Middle School in Moore County, the $1-million Endy School in Albemarle, a U.S. Postal Service office in West End, NC, a Pine Forest High School addition in Fayetteville, and a high school addition in Fuquay-Varina, south of Raleigh.

Though the firm has some backhoes and skid loaders, it relies on leased equipment for major machinery needs.

“It’s better for us to lease it and turn it back in, Lane said. In Marion, the company is using equipment from Hertz Equipment Co. and United Rental.

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