City Councilor Kathleen Amuso, a former School Committee member, has been working on this project for more than a decade. Her signature joined hundreds including students, construction workers, and staff.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The $120.8 million Taconic High School construction project hit another milestone Friday when workers placed the final steel beam on the structure.
In a topping-off ceremony, a construction tradition signifying the completion of the structure of a building, school and construction officials celebrated the milestone with a speaking program, signing of the beams, and of course, watching the workers place it.
"While they hoist the beam that will finally be the last piece of steel in place, it is symbolic of all the heavy lifting that has taken place by so many people for the last many long years, 10, 12 years now we are approaching," Mayor Linda Tyer said.
The final beam is painted white and was signed by all involved in the project from students to construction workers to school officials and staff, and then hoisted up with an American flag and a fir tree.
According to John Benzinger, a senior project manager with Skanska USA, the history of topping off dates back to Egyptians placing trees on top of buildings. Scandinavian tribes used a tree in attempts to appease tree-dwelling spirits that were displaced by construction. Then in Medieval times, family flags were used when homes were built. In the United States, Native Americans would work on steel construction and there was a belief that no structure is taller than a tree, so a tree was placed on top, Benzinger said.
"There are a lot of religious and spiritual things attached to this ceremony," Benzinger said.
Since then, the tradition has been kept by construction workers on projects throughout the world. Now it mostly signals that the building is nearing completion because the superstructure is done. For more information about the Taconic project, click here.
"We are on schedule for completion in June 2018. And in September of 2018 students should be occupying the new building. Roughly a year later in December of 2019, the removal of this building and construction of the playing fields will be complete," Benzinger said.
About 65 percent of the project is being funded by the Massachusetts School Building Authority. Senior Project Manager Richard Hudson took yet another trip to the site on Friday to join the celebration and praised the local community and the construction team for the efforts.
"Projects such as these require an effective team and that is what you have here at the new Taconic. Your architect, DRA, owners project manager Skanska USA Building, and construction manager Gilbane are all experienced, qualified, and with the goal in mind of providing a well-built, quality end product," Hudson said.
Taconic Principal John Vosburgh said the construction team has done a good job in keeping impacts to the current school's operations at a minimum despite the construction. The new building is being built directly across the driveway from the current building and work on it began last March.
"Honestly, it really hasn't impacted much. The manner this project has moved forward with incredible communication and coordination with the school has been stellar," Vosburgh said.
Vosburgh said not only has the contractors been able to accommodate the school's operations but have also opened the doors to help educate students about construction work. He said engineering students have been able to go on site to see the inner workings of the construction.
But the topping-off ceremony isn't just celebrating just any building. The new Taconic represents a change in learning, technology, and the future.
Senior Cassie Winn won't be attending that school but says it will be able to put the Braves on the same playing field as graduates from other schools, whom they will be competing against for jobs.
Taconic High School Senior Cassie Winn says the new building helps put future students on par with those from other schools.
"Here at Taconic, students have long benefited from the expertise of a dedicated faculty of skilled professionals. And now we will have the facility and technology on par with that of other technical schools," Winn said.
Winn cited a 2016 survey that found for five consecutive years skills trades were reported as the most difficult jobs for employers to fill. She said the National Association of Homebuilders estimates there are 200,000 unfilled construction jobs nationwide. And there are 350,000 manufacturing jobs available each month.
"For the Taconic community, this building represents more than a safer, more aesthetically pleasing place to learn. It also means that students will have additional programs in which they can enroll, new certifications they will be eligible to earn, and relevant jobs skills they'll be able to master on up to date equipment," Winn said.
While it symbolized a future for the individual students, Tyer believes the building also symbolized the city's future. She said in a recent budget workshop it was said that the financial plans should be crafted for "where we want to go." And, the building of Taconic and example of that principle.
"I can't think of a more important investment than in our state-of-the-art brand new Taconic High School as a symbol of where we are going. This is an investment in our students, our families, and the future of our community," Tyer said.
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