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California was the first state to issue shelter-in-place orders, which went into effect on Friday, March 13. This had the immediate effect of limiting the number of employees who were able to report to work, says Jaime Quintana, director of facilities and planning at Tracy Unified School District, near San Francisco. From the janitorial team to construction crews, groups could not be greater than 10 people in order to comply with regulations, so work had to be spread out and staggered in the weeks following the shelter-in-place order. Even how materials are received to job sites is slowed down. The cumulative effect is that even with no students in the building, effective time on the site is halved or even quartered, Quintana says. "So it's really doing a summer's worth of work in two weeks because everybody is being impacted,” says Quintana. “It's been a bit of a process."
But all told, he says impacts to actual construction projects have been minimal, even if they take a little longer. The school year ended May 26, and with the students already home for months at that time, Quintana was able to release some projects slated for the summer ahead of schedule. And the projects had gone to bid prior to the state shutdown, so the school system reaped some financial benefit from the early bid process. Contractors were motivated to lock in work for the spring and summer, so the pricing was more attractive than normal, Quintana says.
Looking to the future as the district works out what getting students back into schools will look like, Quintana says being adaptable will be important. "Facilities is a very fluid profession," he says. "Adaptability is going to be key to our overall new norm."
What does the COVID-19 response look like from where you’re sitting? Send an email sharing best practices, surprising pivots, or just observations to firstname.lastname@example.org. General comments and questions welcome as well.
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