You may recognize him from the “Don’t Be This Person” safety videos we shared at the beginning of this school year, although he didn’t have a full beard then. He’s Matt Arnold, a supervisor from Continental Building Systems and the person who is in charge of the entire construction project on our campus.
Q: Why were you selected to oversee Columbus Academy’s construction?
A: Earlier this month, I reached my 20th year with Continental. I was the assistant superintendent in 2003-04 when Academy added the Walter Family Learning Center, Parents Hall, the athletics wing and an addition to the theater. I also was the project superintendent for the Outdoor Learning Center last year, so I’m quite familiar with this campus and the people on it.
Q: What is it like being the main liaison with Academy’s facilities director Doug Bennett?
Doug has a good understanding of what it takes on our end because he’s been doing this for so long. He also is a straight shooter. He gives you your expectations, and we’ve got a great relationship because he knows that I’m not going to sugarcoat anything for him. He’s going to know exactly what’s going on and when it’s going to happen. The fact that Doug has such a good grasp of facilities makes him one of the best clients I’ve ever worked with.
Q: What progress was made over Spring Break?
A: Over break we removed the temporary partitions at the side of Dennett and Van Syckel, we saw-cut three out of the four openings, demo’d the windows and put block back up in its final position, and then put all of those partitions back. You’re not necessarily going to see all of that but that is a good jump-start on what we have to do this summer, when we’ve got 11 weeks to do a lot of renovation work and get everything open. The basement on the north end of Van Syckel Hall has had its own set of challenges. It seemed like every time we put a hoe bucket in the ground, we were hitting something that we didn’t realize was there and had to relocate it. Steel is coming for it this week, which will allow us to backfill that gigantic hole out there and be able to start bringing that structure on up. As far as what you can see, the walkways are close to being their final arrangement. The railings were all moved and put back. I’m not quite ready to open up the walkway between Van Syckel and Academy Hall just yet, but we’ve removed the fence so you can get a visual of what that Van Syckel addition’s going to look like from the quad.
Q: Has it been tough working in a school environment?
A: Safety is our number one core value at Continental, and it’s one of those things that’s on the top of my mind. You have to eliminate any possibility of someone mistakenly coming into your work zones. I think that video we did early in the year has helped tremendously because everyone seems to have an understanding that they need to stay out of our construction zones. The students, for the most part, have not given us any issues at all.
Q: Is your boss at Continental – Academy alumnus Todd Alexander ’81 – paying closer attention than usual to this project?
A: Todd stopped out last Friday and we walked the campus. I’m honest with him about issues that we have out here and what my opinions are. He’s taking this project very personally, as is Jonathan Kass ’85, whose father was one of the founders of the company. It definitely means that the eyes are on us that much more intently because this school means so much to both of them.
Q: In an interview with architectural project manager Tony Malik, he stated that the biggest challenge was dealing with all of the work zones. Would you agree?
A: Yes, it’s the fact that we’ve got four additions plus the total renovation of Morris Hall… that’s a lot of work, just as far as scope. And it’s not like we’ve got a lot of space to store things, so we’ve got to be very mindful of the materials we’re bringing in and where we’re going to place them. Keeping each work zone straight and on schedule is probably the most difficult aspect of it.
Q: Will the campus roads be fixed once all construction is complete?
A: Obviously what we’re doing is not what those roads were set up to do with the amount of dump trucks, concrete trucks, off-road vehicles and such. Nobody knew the extent of what would happen but we’ve had conversations about it, so Doug is fully aware of it, as is Continental. I don’t know the specifics yet but between the two groups, there will be a game plan to try to get all of that fixed before the start of school next year.
Q: When the new facilities open at the end of summer, what do you think will be the most impressive aspect?
A: I think the gallery at Morris Hall will definitely be a center point of the entire campus moving forward. There were some unknowns in that building because we don’t have the drawings from the three original buildings. So after that building was gutted, Melissa and Doug looked at that structure with the architects and set in motion a change that basically opened that whole center area up for artwork, displays and hosting events. Morris Hall is going to be a great art building anyway, but when you walk in there and see the high ceilings with the lighting and steel structure, I think you’re going to be really impressed with that. As a close second, the dining hall addition and the new serving area is really going to please a lot of people.