Ajax Topping-off Ceremony Recognizes a Year of Construction Work

Camelot comes closer to completion.


Photo Zoe Thaxton

The view of the front of the school, with the main office and all other administrative offices on the first floor and the journalism and art classrooms above it.

Zoe Thaxton and Juno Le

Robinson students and staff have watched the demolition and slow construction of their new school over the past year.  At just about the year mark, the final structural pieces were completed on the Robinson construction site. A “complete” building stood on campus. While the interior needs to be completed, this is a huge step in the construction process, one traditionally celebrated. On Jan. 20, Ajax, the company in charge of the school’s construction, hosted a topping-off ceremony for the occasion.

“[It] is a construction tradition,” project manager Jeff Wright said. “Typically, it is done when the last structural member is set on the project. We’re doing it a little different here because of the type of structure and it was built in 9 weeks over the summer. So, we waited a little longer so we could have some more people involved in it. But it’s basically a recognition of all the hard work that went to get to that point in the project…”

Workers were celebrated for all their work. Ajax provided all those on-site a served barbecue-style meal, t-shirts with the rendered image of the building and finally, a raffle. Ajax provided a TV and a grill and sub donations offered drills, tool belts, mini-fridges, whatever the workers would need.

The celebration was well deserved as the construction at Robinson is not the usual build.

“The most unique thing about this project, I’ve never done a structure before that was 100% precast… [Usually] we do a lot of tilt-wall construction where they cast the concrete panels on site and they stand them up and then you have a steel roof and steel deck that you pour concrete on… Due to the small footprint on this site, there wasn’t any available area to do casting beds,” Wright said.

There was space off campus at Corelab in East Tampa. On their 60-acre facility, they cast the panels used in the building. They made the beams and columns from concrete and transported them 25 minutes to campus. It’s a complicated structure, something similar to “construction you’d see in a parking garage” as Wright described it.

This is not only a celebration of all the hard work that has gone into it. It is also a celebration for the students and staff, knowing that they are closer to moving into the building.

“I’m … looking forward to having a sense of permanence in where I’m at… it goes back to before COVID because things have not, we have not been able to experience any sense of normalcy since before… the last normal bit of high school was February [the senior’s freshmen year]… it’s not just like, “oh hey, we get to have a new place, a new home like we’re little lost puppies. No, it’s just like the entire world has been in such a chaotic shape, state of existence, that maybe people will start acting… normal again,” IB Theory of Knowledge teacher James Buchanan said.

Everything revealed last year is going to plan. The culinary classroom and restaurant combo is set to be completed with the rest of the school by the end of the summer, with a new walk-in fridge and outdoor patio seating for restaurant customers. For those who are familiar with the layout of the campus before buildings were torn down, the location of the math and English classrooms have switched, with the math classrooms to be on the south side of campus and the English classrooms on the north side and ESE classrooms downstairs from English.

Robinson alumni who have panicked since word of the school’s construction broke out can relax. The senior seal has been preserved along with the engraved bricks. At the moment, it is uncertain where they will be placed but they will remain somewhere in the courtyard.

Construction is predicted to be completed in time for the 2023-2024 school year. Once again, the school will close during the 2023 summer break so construction can fully operate.

“[Last Summer], we broke the existing campus into two halves. We did buildings seven, eight, nine, 10 and half of 11… and we’re going to do the remaining half of 11, which is the media and the classrooms above [the history hall] as well as the whole south side of the campus next summer… This summer ’23 coming up is bigger than what we did last summer,” Wright said.