With HCS’ new schools all open in a month, there are more than 800 problems to fix

Socastee Middle School in Socastee on July 23, 2018.
Socastee Middle School in Socastee on July 23, 2018.

With one month before kids go back to school, the new Socastee Middle School built by FirstFloor Energy Positive still has 270 punch list items to complete, according to school district data presented at a committee meeting Monday night. All told, there are more than 800 things that need to be fixed in Horry County’s new schools.

Punch list items are work items or repairs that have to be done before a building is complete, such as fixing chips in the paint, finishing caulking or fixing building code issues, according to Executive Director of Facilities Mark Wolfe. A school may open even if the punch list items have not been addressed.

Socastee Middle School is built to hold 800 students, but the building’s mechanical and air conditioning systems have yet to be tested by students, said Wolfe.

The new Socastee Middle School is the last of FirstFloor’s energy-positive schools to open. The other four have already been occupied in recent semesters.

“We anticipate and hope it will work, but we just haven’t had it occupied by students,” Wolfe said. “Is it going to cool? Is it going to heat?”

Across all the district’s new energy-positive schools, there are still 811 punch list items that have not been addressed, according to school district staff.

“Most of these items are fairly minor, there are some related to the mechanical systems,” said FirstFloor CEO Robbie Ferris. “We’re working diligently on all the finish items.”

District staff complained during the meeting about lack of training on how to operate the special wireless lights, and problems like uneven kitchen tiles and stage steps, doors that weren’t latching closed and improperly installed expansion joints that Wolfe said could be a tripping hazard.

“We’ve been clearly communicative,” said Wolfe, who added that the deadline for FirstFloor to complete all the punch list items is Aug. 1. “We’ve had weekly meetings, we’ve had emails, it’s well-documented we’ve let them know what our concerns are.”

FirstFloor Energy Positive Program Manager James Rice said he didn’t think all the punch list items would be complete by Aug. 1.

“I’m still confident that they’ll all be done before the kids go back to school,” Rice said, adding that FirstFloor would work with the district to fix all the issues.

In addition, Rice said more issues had been piling up as problems had been found.

“We’re just getting them done as we can get them done,” Rice said, noting that “almost none” of the issues impacted kids.

Interim Board Chair Neil James said he wasn’t happy about the delay and didn’t think FirstFloor would meet the August 1 deadline.

“We said all along we wanted these things to be completed no later than August 1,” James said. “Then we find out today there’s 811 punch list items. We want our schools ready and welcoming to our new students.”

Board member Shanda Allen said the board needs more urgency from FirstFloor in addressing the issues.

“I’m not hearing any urgency from FirstFloor on these matters,” Allen said. “That’s very frustrating to me. I don’t hear the urgency.”

But Ferris said FirstFloor was taking the district’s concerns seriously.

“We’re working really hard to do what we need to do,” he said. “Everyone’s working together to do what we can do.”

Unfinished punch list items per school:

  • Ten Oaks Middle: 98

  • St. James Intermediate: 138

  • Socastee Elementary: 107

  • Myrtle Beach Middle: 198

  • Socastee Middle: 270

Christian Boschult, 843-626-0218, @TSN_Christian