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VJS Construction raises the roof for Bruce Guadalupe Community School expansion project

By: Ethan Duran//August 28, 2023//

A drone shot of the ongoing third-story expansion project at the Bruce Guadalupe Community School. The 12,000-square-foot expansion is funded by a $6 million fundraising campaign hosted by operator United Community Center. Photo courtesy of VJS Construction Services

VJS Construction raises the roof for Bruce Guadalupe Community School expansion project

By: Ethan Duran//August 28, 2023//

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Crews for VJS Construction Services literally raised the roof at Bruce Guadalupe Community School (BGCS) by adding a 12,000-square-foot third floor to the K4-8th grade charter school in Milwaukee.

The additional floor will be used to create 12 classrooms for elementary school children and crews also worked downstairs on a cafeteria expansion in the existing school, project officials said. The project first kicked off in April and is fueled by a $6 million fundraising campaign through United Community Center (UCC), which operates two charter schools.

Adding more classes will let students get more individualized attention and decrease achievement gaps, UCC officials said in their donation webpage. The expanded school cafeteria will accommodate more students and create more efficient mealtimes which will let children spend more time in the classroom, officials added.

The “Raise the Roof for Kids” campaign has achieved $2.1 million of its $6 million goal and fundraising is expected to cover the total cost of construction, said Amanda Lent, director of development for UCC.

The existing BGCS building was erected in 2010 with the structural support needed to add a third floor, putting it in “great shape” to start expansion, UCC officials said. The school previously held a campaign for a separate expansion project in 2012.

In August, crews worked to tear up the insulation and rubber membrane of the previous roof and prepared to pour three inches of concrete to create a new floor, explained Luke Nelson, project manager for VJS. Working with a dozen contractors, the company hopes to have construction done in December and occupied in January, he added.

VJS provided concrete, demolition, carpentry and some drywall work, Nelson said. Crews had to cut out areas of the roof while installing new beams and structural walls and patch them to keep things watertight, he added.

“The unique part about (the project) is keeping everything watertight underneath us while building a third story before the roof is watertight,” Nelson said, adding coordination with the previous structure was also key.

The company managed to source the same block and brick as it did when it built the school in 2010, meaning the materials of the new story will match the rest of the building, Nelson said. One unique design feature was the pyramid-shaped windows on the southeast corner of the building, he added.

Wauwatosa-based Prospective Design lead architectural services and the company consulted Milwaukee-based Harwood Engineering for structural engineering, according to project officials.

VJS worked with a list of subcontractors, including Schindler Elevator Corporation, TVJ Masonry, Edge Electric, Hernandez Roofing and Action Fire & Alarm.

The company worked crunch time while kids were out of school, but worked while classes were still in session in April. To ensure safety for children attending class on site, project officials did a walkthrough of the building and created a plan, said Elizabeth Polheber, the senior safety manager for VJS.

“We all walked through the school and had to make sure we had the proper egress for the kids. In any pass we change, you have to change signs in the school. We then needed to notify the school of the areas we would be working in. Any time you have a crane working overhead, you have to have two cleared floors,” Polheber added.

Nelson said he wanted to have the “least amount of distraction as possible” for teachers and students inside the building.

Inside the cafeteria expansion, VJS’ own design team created geometric painted patterns on the walls, Nelson explained. The expansion included a spillover area for extra children in the classroom and four new classrooms, he added later. Furniture, including tables and chairs, would be shipped in mid-August.

“There’s not much we couldn’t provide to many clients,” he said, adding contractors need to be adaptive to clients’ needs.

Photo courtesy of VJS Construction Services


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