Overseeing the largest school project in Mecklenburg County, Virginia

Located between the cities of Richmond and Raleigh is Mecklenburg County, Virginia. This County lies on the historic Tobacco Heritage Trail which you can take up and down the state of Virginia. Our Skanska Integrated Solutions (SIS) team, the program management and consulting arm of Skanska USA Building, is currently overseeing the County’s $152 million combination middle/high school project in Baskerville, Virginia. The project is about 50 percent complete, and my team has had to overcome some unique challenges to get to where we are today, including chemically drying wet soil and relocating graves that were dug up onsite.

Our Skanska Integrated Solutions (SIS) team is currently managing the construction of the largest school in Mecklenburg County, Virginia.

Take a virtual tour of our Mecklenburg County Public Schools project in Baskerville, Virginia. (Video credit: Ballou Justice Upton Architects)

The campus will feature state-of-the-art athletic facilities, including football, track, soccer, and baseball/softball fields for both the middle and high school. It will also include a central plant, concessions building, vehicle fueling station, barn and multiple greenhouses.

The 351,000 square-foot facility will incorporate sanitation features to protect students and faculty against COVID-19, including bottle fillers in place of water fountains, motion-activated restroom fixtures, and bipolar ionization units installed in the mechanical systems, which will sanitize the air as it flows through the duct work.

The new school will focus on supporting students’ varying interests and set them up for success in those areas. Students interested in math, science or different trades like welding, auto mechanics, carpentry and mechanical systems can take STEM or CTE classes. For those interested in agriculture, the onsite barn and greenhouses will contain equipment that will help them learn how to farm and garden. These classes will give high schoolers the chance to learn different trades so once they graduate, they have more options available to them.

One of the biggest benefits of this new combined middle/high school is that it will be more centrally located than the middle and high schools that students currently attend. Right now, Mecklenburg County students ride buses for about an hour to get to their schools. When the new school opens next year, it will cut their commute time in half.

Managing challenges with the site location, wet soil and gravesites

Our team has already overcome a few challenges on this project, including one involving the site itself. During the beginning of construction, thousands of tons of rocks required blasting—a process that took six months. The rock was sitting on top of old, fertile farmland that was wet. You can’t put a good foundation on wet soil, so we decided to chemically dry it with two percent lime. While this was expensive, it saved a lot of time. The soil dried out in just 30 days—if we’d mechanically dried the soil with tilling machines, it would have taken 12 – 15 months (or approximately 360-450 days).

When we started the job, we knew there were three graves on the site that dated back to 1861, 1923 and 1955. These graves were a family plot, so we had them carefully exhumed and relocated to a nearby cemetery. We worked with the Owner and their legal counsel to contact living family members and go through the legal process of relocating the graves. That was certainly a first for me and the project team.

The other site challenge we managed was due to the sloping of the land. Over half the school was going to sit on an elevation gain of 20 to 30 feet, so we had to backfill all of that with the lime-stabilized soil.

Once the school opens in August 2022, it will be the largest in the County, housing 1,800 middle school and high school students. Our SIS team is incredibly proud of this project, and we’re excited about the benefits it will bring the students, parents and faculty members of Mecklenburg County.

Last updated: 5/20/2021