Defying The Rain

By Liz Moucka | September 28, 2010

The story behind the new K-8 elementary school in Pass Christian, MS, is quite a tale of teamwork to create a multifunctional facility for the entire community. Even with their children attending school in trailers since Hurricane Katrina, Pass Christian students had the highest test scores in Mississippi. It is no wonder that the community rallied around the school district to rebuild their infrastructure.

Finding the Money

A federal grant served as the starting point to rebuild Pass Christian's elementary school, which had been destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Because the original design was 10,000 square feet over FEMA allowances, the grant fell far short of what the school district could afford. Not enough residents and businesses had rebuilt to bring the tax rolls back to normal income levels.

A charrette comprised of school board members and JBHM Architects went back to the drawing board. The plan that emerged called for nine buildings to surround a central commons — six classroom houses (three elementary on one side; three middle school opposite), administration, dining, and a media center.

The community Boys and Girls Club could be located on the property, just adjacent to the school. The nation of Qatar had donated the money for this organization to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina. Relocating the club to the school property saved them the cost of purchasing land, and the club's gymnasium could be used by the elementary school.

Webb Building Corporation of Memphis, TN, was awarded the contract to build the K-8 school. Although not attached to the courtyard, two other buildings on the grounds will become an integral part of this educational facility. Century Construction of Tupelo, MS, was chosen to build the Boys and Girls Club, while M&W Associates of Pascagoula was awarded the contract for the Help and Hope Foundation Day Care building.

Unique Courtyard

A 190-foot by 90-foot enclosed courtyard brings unity to the entire complex. As a central feature, the open-air courtyard with an Astroturf surface will serve as a safe lunch area, playground and more. With a stage at one end, the courtyard can be transformed into an amphitheater for school and community performances. But an enclosed, open air courtyard in a coastal environment creates engineering and construction challenges as well.

As construction of the complex neared completion, All Seasons Lawn was selected to complete this courtyard. An 11-foot wide corridor was left uncompleted to provide access for the landscaper's equipment and haul trucks. A major consideration of an enclosed courtyard in a coastal region is drainage.

"You have to have a drainage system underneath the Astroturf so water will drain completely through," explained Michael Jones, AIA, LEED AP, partner with JBHM Architects. Allowing the Astroturf to simply surface drain would result in it becoming soggy.

Before Charles Reymond and his All Seasons crew could begin laying the specified Astroturf, they had to install the crucial network of catch basins and drainage pipes to channel rainwater from the enclosed courtyard under the school buildings, to the city stormwater system. If the drainage was not installed properly, the school would inevitably flood during some future great rain.

"What we are creating is a bowl inside of this rectangle, and if it rains for days on end, and our drainage doesn't work properly, it would back up and flood the school," Reymond stressed. "So it is absolutely essential that all our grades are right and that everything is installed properly."

The All Seasons crew employed a DeWalt laser on a tripod to make sure the grades were correct. JBHM Architects engineered an extensive drainage system. Water that runs through the Astroturf will filter through a layer of crushed aggregate and into a network of perforated, sleeved pipe, where it will collect in plastic holding tanks and ultimately drain into the city wastewater system, according to Jones.

"There will also be a safety valve where three inlets in the courtyard can drain directly out to the west side of the building," Jones added. "An additional bigger drain will handle large quantities of water."

"We're using our Bobcat T190 to grade the area and create our slopes for proper drainage into the catch basins," said Reymond. "I'm also using the MT55 with the trenching attachment for all my trenching work — to put the 2,000 feet of drain line down. Right in the center of the rectangle courtyard is an 18-inch pipe, which is our outflow pipe going underneath the school out into the city sewer system. The 18-inch pipe was installed under the building before that portion of the slab was poured."

Three concrete catch basins connect a 12-inch diameter center trunk line running through the center of the 190-foot long courtyard. Lateral 4-inch perforated, sleeved pipes spaced every 10 feet branch off the center line 45 feet on each side.

"Once the pipes are installed, we'll use our T190 Bobcat to spread a 4-inch crushed limestone base over the graded site," Reymond explained. "That 11-foot opening will provide access for the haul trucks delivering the 400 tons of blue limestone for the job. Then we'll compact it down with a dual drum vibratory riding compactor that we have rented."

Home Run Astroturf with 5-millimeter backing supplied by Shelton Carpets of Dalton, GA, will be installed as the wear surface within the courtyard.


All Seasons is also installing 5,500 square yards of sod around the school property. Craft Turf Farms of Foley, AL, will supply the Centipede sod.

"We're using our 6-foot Glenmac Harley power box rake to prepare the soil for the sod," said Reymond. "Its carbide teeth work really well and it attaches to all of our Bobcats — the T190, the S205 and the MT55."

All Seasons has acquired a variety of attachments to keep their fleet active. In addition to the standard buckets for their Bobcat skid steers, the trencher, box rake and auger work equally well on the skid steers and the mini track loader. Due to the process of lifting small trees, the grapple bucket and grabber attachment are best suited for the skid steers rather than the walk-behind.

All Season's array of equipment and attachments served them well to complete the Pass Christian K-8 project within schedule.