Sag Harbor Learning Center Opening is Delayed

Inside a room of the newly renovated Sag Harbor Learning Center.

Although prekindergarten students in the Sag Harbor School District were expected to move into the Sag Harbor Learning Center on September 4 for the first day of school, the IBI Group — a global architecture, engineering and techology firm that is managing construction of the Division Street building — informed the School Board on Monday night that it won’t be completed until mid-November at the earliest.

Prior to Monday’s School Board meeting, project managers with the IBI Group took members of the board and administrators on a tour of the building to show them how much progress had been made and what work was still outstanding. Ed Bernhauer, a senior architectural designer with IBI Group, then briefed the board and the public Monday night on the project.

New safety doors and frames are the primary reason behind the delay, he said, as they are not expected to arrive on site until mid-September or October.

Once the doors and frames are installed, Mr. Bernhauer estimated there would be three to four weeks of construction left on the site, with the goal of completing the project by mid-November. Until then, prekindergarten students will remain at Pierson Middle/High School.
At Monday’s meeting, School Board member Chris Tice said that during the walk-through at the Sag Harbor Learning Center, she also was informed of other minor delays, including in the installation of gymnasium lighting and a fire alarm system.

“This happens during construction,” she said.

That said, Ms. Tice also noted that once the construction crews leave, the district will still have to set up the entire building for students and staff, which could take an additional week or two. She said IBI Group and the district had not been transparent enough with the public about when they could expect the Learning Center to open.

“I’m just raising this because until this week, we all thought kids were moving in next week,” Ms. Tice said. “Now we’re talking about a three-month delay before we can get in there and set up. I know everyone’s been working really hard. I just feel like there’s been a lack of communication and transparency to the board and the public on this, which is concerning.”

Ms. Tice said taxpayers deserved better communication, but added that she was glad the IBI Group planned to work with contractors to develop a “milestone” schedule with written reports to share with community members during the next School Board meeting, on September 9.

Mr. Bernhauer said many outstanding items that remain, such as elevators and technological equipment that are typically a problem to order and ship, have been confirmed by manufacturers and are currently manufactured or being shipped to the work site.

“Unfortunately, we do have some delays on critical system items that we do need to have in place before the building is occupied,” he explained, adding that some of those critical and technological systems are new door security measures.

There was also a delay with the fire alarm system, which is currently being installed and should be wrapped up within the next couple of weeks, said Mr. Bernhauer. After the installations are complete, he said the IBI Group would conduct a “substantial completion inspection,” and go through the school building to make sure every detail coincides with the contract documents.

Once that’s completed, the district can utilize the building for prekindergarten and other programs.

Because of the delay, prekindergarten classes will continue to be housed at Pierson Middle/High School.

The school district has long pitched to community members that the Learning Center would house not only a prekindergarten but that it would contract with a day care provider in an effort to offer more than a half day of child care for residents in the prekindergarten program. The current prekindergarten program is only for a half-day. Superintendent Katy Graves said on Tuesday that the board will issue a request for proposals for day care providers, which the district will send out next week.

Ms. Graves added that Sag Harbor Elementary School Principal Matt Malone would work with the pre-K team to schedule the move to the Learning Center, which she said could happen soon after completion in mid-November.

Ms. Graves said while she was on vacation at the end of July with her family in Cape Cod, she received the information that the building would be delayed due to a halt in the fabrication of the safety doors.

“If we made it public, none of the other construction companies would have shown up. I will take all of the blame for this,” Ms. Graves said, explaining that at the time she found out, 85 percent of the electrical and plumbing work was already completed. She attributed that progress to the fact that contractors did not delay in moving forward anticipating a longer project window.

“All of the other construction companies may have heard via the newspaper that there was a delay … I kept that from the media. I don’t want to fault the IBI Group for lack of transparency,” she said.

After the presentation, board member Brian DeSesa asked if IBI Group would be able to commit to those time line tasks, including having the building completed in November.
To that, Mr. Bernhauer explained that those dates are directly from the contractors.

Before Mr. Bernhauer finished answering questions, board member Yorgos Tsibiridis asked for a construction update at every board meeting leading up to the completion of the project, in an effort to keep a public that expected a new school building this fall, better informed.

“The schedule you had, had us moving in there next Wednesday,” Mr. DeSesa emphasized before ending the discussion.