Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Project update February 4

We opened bids for the high school project on January 14. With all of our alternates included, the firm of Jones and Roberts was the apparent low bidder with a bid of $17,315,400. There were six bids considered and five of them were within 1.8% of one another. This is an indication that this was a very competitive process and that the drawings by IBI Group were clear. Both of these are good for the District. 

According to their website,

“Jones and Roberts has been helping clients construct healthy and functional spaces.  Since 1965 we have grown from two small Tacoma, Washington companies into a leading regional construction firm recognized for our quality, integrity and reliability.  Our long term perspective is to build value for both the client and the community.”

Jones and Roberts were the contractors on the renovation of Toledo Middle and Elementary schools in 1996.

On Jan. 16, the Board voted to award the bid to Jones and Roberts. We signed the contract with them at the end of the Groundbreaking Ceremony on Jan. 31.

The design team's  estimate for the project was approximately $19 million. The $17.3 million bid gives us the prospect of being able to go back to the original designs from our community and add back some of the features that were eliminated in the bid plans. This collaborative process will provide additional value to the final facility.

Ceremonial groundbreaking took place on Friday, January 31 at 4 p.m. in the parking lot of THS. The theme for this event was “Honoring the Past, Embracing the Present, Building for the Future”. Speakers included Cowlitz Indian Tribe Councilwoman Patty Kinswa-Gaiser, First Principal of the current THS, Denny Clark, Board President, Jerad Buswell, ASB President Greenlee Clark, Wyatt Nef, Class of 2022 (first graduating class from the new building), Ross Parker, Architect and Pastor Joe Martin of the Toledo First Baptist Church.

A  camera has been installed at the stadium to livestream progress on the construction site. Patrons will be able to access real time images of the construction as it is happening.

We’ll be meeting with Jones and Roberts on Feb 13 for the preconstruction meeting. This is where we’ll get into the details of construction and phasing. You should see evidence of construction taking place by the end of February. First steps will be construction fencing and a new, temporary main entrance to the south of the current entrance (away from the gym).

This is an exciting step forward in creating a new Toledo High School. Thanks to the generosity of our community and the participation of Washington State, Toledo will get a new school that is designed to last another 50 years.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

December 5 Update

The high school project has been advertised to bidders for a couple of weeks now. At last check, three companies had requested plans. Subcontractors are working on their bids and will be submitting to the General Contractors who have pulled plans. We've advertised in the Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce as well as in the Lewis County News, The Daily News and the Chronicle. I'm hearing from folks in our community that they're planning to submit subcontractor bids. Wishing everyone good fortune as we move forward.

We'll have a meeting for interested General Contractors on Dec. 10 so that they can get an on-site view of the project and ask questions of the architects and engineers. Bidding will close on January 14 with bid opening at 3:15 p.m. at the Toledo District Office.

We're tentatively planning on a ceremonial groundbreaking on January 31 at 4 p.m. The project is scheduled to officially begin on February 3.

We've arranged with ToledoTel to install a video camera on the stadium that will stream live video of the project. We plan to include this view on the kiosks we've installed at the schools and at the Community Library and Post Office. We'll also have a view available on our website. This will give community members the opportunity to watch construction in real time 24/7.

Our architects from IBI Group will be on hand on Monday Dec. 16 to give students at THS a virtual reality "walk through" of the new school. Using VR technology, students will be able to "look around" the new school. Should be an exciting morning.

By clicking this link, you'll see IBI's presentation to the Building Committee last month. It includes floor plans and phasing as well as some interior renderings. Those pages have a QR code in the upper right corner.  Use your smartphone's camera to capture a code. It should take you to a Virtual Reality version of that area of the  high school. By moving your phone around, you can see what the school is planned to look like inside.

Everyone is getting very excited for the start of construction. A lot of work has gone into the design and engineering of the building. We've done quite a bit of work to minimize change orders and to try to predict where there will be uncertainties. We're looking forward to seeing the plans begin to take shape.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

October 31 Update

We're working to get all of the government agencies to sign off on our construction plans in preparation for bidding in late November. The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) needs to give us permission to go to bid. Agencies such as the County Health Department, Building Department, Energy, Labor and Industries and others are required to review and approve our plans before OSPI will green light our bid process. We plan to post our first advertisement for bids on November 26. Most of our agency reviews are complete and will be submitted to OSPI soon.

Our plans have also been submitted to an independent architectural/engineering firm for constructibility review. These consultants review our plans to be sure that they are clear and that errors and omissions are reduced. I think of this process like proofreading for construction. In addition, we've submitted our plans for a final cost estimate to confirm that we've prepared a project that is likely to be bid within our budget.

The building committee plans to meet on November 12 to review and approve the materials for the interior spaces. They'll also get a look at the Virtual Reality renderings of the interior. There are two views of the Commons space at these links. By clicking and dragging, you can get a 360* view of the space as it is designed.

Commons from Main Entrance. 
Commons from gym access corridor.

These pages take awhile to load, so be patient.

We've begun work with a consultant to identify furniture, fixtures and equipment that can be retained, repurposed and refinished. She'll also work with us to identify items that need to be replaced. We're in the process of inventorying artwork and heritage items (like David Ike's portrait and composite photos of our graduating classes) so that they can be properly stored and a place for them can be prepared in the new school.

Our schedule calls for the first ad for bids will be on November 26. Our  second ad will be on December 3. We'll have a pre-bid walk on December 10. The final addendum will be January 7. Bid opening will be one week later on January 14. Construction will start on February 3. The first things that people will notice are the construction fences going up and the new main entrance to the school being constructed.

We encourage all local tradespeople to make themselves aware of the bid documents and to participate in bidding. It is our hope that our school can be built by local people to the extent that bid laws allow. We plan to advertise heavily in the local area and on our Facebook page, website and this blog so that our local tradespeople can participate fully in this process.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Its Just a Phase

The new high school will be built in five phases beginning in February, 2020 and concluding in August, 2021. Phasing the project allows us to continue to operate school while construction is underway without spending funds on modular buildings and relocating. The drawings in this post all utilize the same color scheme: Green denotes the contractor's area. No students or staff will be allowed in this area during the phase. Blue is a shared area. This is the main drive into and out of the site. Orange denotes the area under construction during the phase. Keeping these colors in mind will help you understand what is happening during the phase.

One of the first things that will happen is the front entrance to the building will be fenced off along with all of the exterior doors to the gym and commons. A new (temporary) front entrance will be created at the site of the current Spanish classroom in the Classroom wing. All entrance and exit from the building will be through this door during construction.
Phase One

Note the new front entrance (in orange). Student parking will be at the baseball field. Students will come to the school via the new pathway and crosswalk and enter through the new front entrance. Phase One will be from Feb.-June of 2020. Construction fencing will be installed and the construction area will be set up for contractor's use along with a temporary fire lane. Site work will commence to prepare for new construction including the transformer and chiller enclosures. In April, the gym and locker rooms will be closed off and renovation of these spaces will begin.

Phase Two 

In June -August 2020, the locker room renovations are nearing completion, site work continues and construction on new classrooms, offices, kitchen and commons gets underway. The Business Lab gets moved to a new location in the Classroom wing and renovations begin on the Shops. A new boiler room begins to take shape as well as the plumbing that attaches to it. Changes to the Art room and Ag classrooms are underway. In this phase, the tennis courts are converted to visitor and staff parking. This will continue throughout construction. The plan is to restore the tennis courts with grants and partnerships after construction is completed.

Phase Three

This phase begins in September of 2020 and continues through December. Focus of this phase is to complete all new construction, site work and boiler/chiller installations with service to the new facilities. During winter break of this year, staff and students will move in and occupy the new spaces- classrooms, offices, commons, kitchen etc. In addition, displaced services will be moved to the Classroom wing to allow for renovation of those spaces- Art, CTE, Family and Consumer Sciences, etc.

Phase Four

January to June of 2021 will see us working to renovate and remodel the interior spaces of the current building. This includes new Science classrooms a new Business Lab a new Family and Consumer Sciences classroom and a new Learning Commons (Library). This means that those classes will meet in vacated classrooms in the old Classroom wing (existing Library). You'll note in this phase that the temporary entrance has been replaced by the new front entrance and that the student parking lot is restored. The new main parking lot configuration will be started at this time.

Phase Five

In this phase, we finish off the construction of the new school and parking lot and demolish the Classroom wing. Phase five takes place during the Summer of 2021 and is expected to be completed in time for school to start that year. A new outdoor classroom space is planned for the area occupied by the Classroom wing along with a new loading dock and service yard near the kitchen. A new greenhouse will be installed on the site of the current hoop house. You'll notice an increase in the amount of parking available as well as clear traffic patterns serving the school and the stadium. This, along with new pathways, crosswalks and signage will make pedestrian traffic safer at all times of the day and night.

These plans are still "broad brush strokes", but will likely not change too much in the coming months. As always, if you would like to see a copy of the permit plans, you're welcome to stop by the office or call for an appointment to chat about the project.

Monday, September 23, 2019

September Update

Since my last update, the design team has been working to make the community's desires for the new high school fit inside the existing budget. This has been a difficult process and I believe we are nearing success in that regard. Here's what we've been working on:

The community referred design "Option 6" to the board for approval in late April. Our architects, engineers, landscape designers, project managers and district staff then began the work of developing that design. We looked at our educational specifications, predicted costs, principles of good design and engineering as well as the desires expressed by the community. During this phase of design, we received our first cost opinion. The estimators indicated that our initial design would cost over $2 million more than our budget. We went back to work looking for ways to reduce the cost of the design.

This took us to June when we submitted the design to a Value Engineering team. This is a group of professionals who mirror our design team. Their task is to examine our design and look for ways to reduce costs and increase utility of the design. Even after our first round of cost-cutting, the VE team found that we were still an additional $2 million over budget. The first recommendation of the VE team was to renovate the entire building and not build any new structures. We immediately rejected this suggestion as our community had told us in four previous bond attempts that renovation of the school was unacceptable. The VE team made several additional recommendations for cost savings that reduced square footage, pitched lower cost mechanical systems and reduced landscaping and paving costs. The Design Team accepted some of the recommendations and developed more of our own. We've reduced the overall square footage by approximately 4000 s.f from the initial design by eliminating classrooms and reorganizing interior spaces. Renovation of some spaces will be limited to lighting, acoustic and HVAC. Some features of the building were changed to add alternates. This means they'll be added if funds are available to do so.

We will have some low-slope roofs that will sheet off to surrounding roofs with a steeper pitch. We will not have any parapets or interior drains that trap water. We'll return the building to a boiler system and include a chiller so that all interior spaces will have heating and cooling. A boiler system will have a longer lifespan and be more straightforward and economic to maintain than the solution proposed in value engineering.

Landscaping will be minimal and will be done by students and the community according to a design developed by the landscape architects. The parking lot will receive an organizational makeover with separate bus loading zone from parent drop off and student parking. Lanes will be clearly marked and additional paths installed to separate pedestrians and vehicular traffic. There will also be an additional 50 parking spaces in the design along with better parking lot lighting.

Initially, our design team was working to get everything done by June 30 so that we could go to bid in November. The VE team recommended taking more time to develop the plans for bid and going to bid in December or January. The VE team felt that the quality of our plans would be improved and would reduce change orders. They also felt that we would get more and better bids at the beginning of 2020. From the VE team's perspective, waiting until December would ultimately save the district money.  The design team accepted that recommendation.

In order for us to go out to bid in December, we need to get approval from the State (OSPI). They require that we be able to "front fund" the project. While we do not have sufficient funds to build the project right now without State assistance ("front fund"), our cash flow analysis indicates that our current funds will take us to the end of 2020 before we need to rely on State Construction Assistance Program (SCAP) funds.

This afternoon, Dale Merten, COO for ToledoTel indicated that ToledoTel will provide the district with a $10 million letter of credit. With this letter, we will be able to demonstrate to OSPI that we can front fund our project. We are immensely grateful to ToledoTel, Dale Merten and Russ Ramsey for their generosity and willingness to support this project. ToledoTel has been and continues to be the leader in support of Toledo getting a new high school. While no money will change hands, this letter allows us to move forward. We estimate that the inflation savings between going to bid in December versus going to bid in August represents nearly a million dollars to the district.

In addition, ToledoTel is installing all of our district-purchased audio visual, security, networking infrastructure, and surveillance at no charge to the district. We expect to save an additional $400-$500,000 as a result.
This is the view upon entering the new school. Trophies will be displayed on the right of this hall and a "Hall of Fame" is envisioned for the right side as well as bench seating. Entry to the gym is via this hallway.

Once we have OSPI's approval, we'll go out to bid in  December, select a General Contractor in January and break ground in February. Plans were submitted to the County for permitting last week and are available for public review at the district office. We're polishing the plans now getting into very granular design decisions.

Work continues on finalizing cost estimates, materials and fixture selections. We've been working with consultants on the details of ingress and egress along with security and safety. We've also contracted with a consultant to assist with procurement of furniture, fixtures and equipment in order to maximize our buying power.

This drawing shows Phase I of the project that will begin in Feb. 2020 and continue through June. The focus of this phase is on the gym and locker room renovation as well as site preparation for the new classrooms. The area in green is construction zone. A new front entrance will be created that will go through what is now the Spanish language classroom. The remaining phases will be the subject of a subsequent blog post.

The district team continues to look for grants and incentives to reduce costs. We'll be applying for a competitive Rural Modernization Grant through the State. If funded, it could pay for significant portions of our fire suppression system.

IBI Group (architects) had some summer interns who took on the project of creating a model of the school. While not exact, it gives a good overview of what we can expect in our new school. In addition, there are some artist's renderings of some of the interior spaces. You can see some of these on our Facebook page.  Sometime in late October, we should get some virtual reality views of some of the interior spaces. This will allow viewers to "move around" in the space to see how all of the pieces of the design come together. Should be very exciting.

As I close this update, I just want to remind everyone that this is a work in progress. We're making and will continue to make decisions every day about this project. As we've said all along, we're working to provide the very best school we can within the budget that we've been entrusted with. While we've had to trim some features and space, I'm very pleased with the design and our progress on the project. As always, if you have questions, I invite you to contact me.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

End of May Update

The project continues on schedule. This past week, we met with the team from Sazan Environmental Engineering to do Value Engineering of the design. This process brings in an outside group of engineers and consultants to review the work that our team has done and provide advice on how the project can be improved for additional value and/or how costs can be reduced. The Sazan group will provide the team with some ideas that the Construction Committee will review.

Our landscape architects have developed some great ideas for reconfiguring the parking lots, bus and parent drop off zones. This design has a minimum of 150 parking places during the day and nearly 200 for evening events. This is a significant increase over the current capacity. In addition, traffic patterns are more well-defined and pedestrian walkways are separated from vehicular traffic for increased safety. (Notice the gravel path to the Baseball field that is separated from the road and the crosswalk between the stadium and the school.) Storm water is addressed by biofilters that are incorporated into the design to reduce runoff and pooling (green islands in the drawing).

Not included in this drawing is additional parking along the access road to the building through better striping of the road and signage. This adds additional space for events.

You'll notice that this design includes outdoor classrooms and an outdoor gathering area. By reducing the number of interior Science labs to two, we're saving money that can be used to develop the exterior into  a variety of classroom spaces. In addition to forestry and agriculture, the outdoor area will include a proper greenhouse and raised beds for planting vegetables and fruits. There will also be outdoor areas for the Art Room and Shops for storage, cleaning and project staging.

This design was created by members of the community and it is serving us well. The team from Sazan was impressed with the work that we've done so far. We continue to work on this design to make it fit within our budget, so you may see some changes to the designs as we move forward. The budget for this project has always been tight, so we're looking for ways to economize and deliver the best possible school with the resources available to us.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Project Updates

The Design Committee concluded it's work on April 25 and the Schematic Design is completed. Dale Merten will present the design to the board on May 16 with recommendation that the board accept the design. The committee developed a design that utilizes the existing gym, shops and the footprint of the commons. This was done as a cost-saving measure to be sure that the school could be built within budget. The design will add over 30,000 square feet of new facilities. Most of that is classrooms, commons, kitchen and office space. Locker rooms will be reconfigured to provide for PE and varsity locker room areas, offices and a training room. Improved Science lab spaces are planned along with an outdoor Science classroom. The Art room will grow in size and include space for a kiln. Shops will be reconfigured and modernized. Finally, the parking lot will be reconfigured to allow separation of pedestrian and vehicular traffic as well as a designated bus zone separate from parking and private vehicle traffic.

I've heard some concerns about the fact that this project utilizes portions of the existing school rather than being a brand new structure. Toledo was granted a total of $20 million from the state if we were willing to tax ourselves to provide $7 million to the project. The language of  ESSB 6095 that grants Toledo $10 million is as follows:

"(7)(a) $10,000,000 of the appropriation in this section is provided solely for the Toledo school district;
(b) The Toledo school district must provide a local match equivalent to a minimum of $7,000,000. The local match may consist of cash; furniture, finishes, and equipment; or like-kind.
(c) If the Toledo school district cannot demonstrate to the office of the superintendent of public instruction that a local match pursuant to (b) of this subsection has been secured by June 30, 2019, the appropriation in (a) of this subsection shall lapse." (Sec. 5007)

The expectation of Rep. Richard DeBolt was that this money would be used to build a new school. What is proposed is a new school. It will be unlike the current school. Much of it will be new construction. It will be a new concept of Toledo High School. It will not look like the current high school. The Design Committee felt that utilizing portions of the building was a prudent way to address the project and utilize district assets and resources.

During the bond campaign, I heard from many in our community that they "knew someone" who said we could build a new school for $200/square foot (or some other low cost). Based on that and a school that is 68,000 sf, they concluded that we should be able to build an entirely new school for $25 million. This was shared around the community and took on a life of its own. The problem with these estimates are:
  1. Current construction costs are $346/sf
  2. Construction costs exclude soft costs such as permits, fees, consultant costs, architects, project managers and sales tax.
  3. The people quoting costs have a vested interest in us thinking they can do the job inexpensively.

You may have read that a brand new school would cost in excess of $40 million. That's true. With current construction and soft costs along with a larger footprint, $40 million is an accurate estimate for a brand new school. Like those who thought that we were going to get a brand new school based on "someone they know's" cost estimates, some folks are  worried that the district will ask for more money in order to complete the project. The district's message is and has always been, "We are going to build the very best school we can with the resources allocated to us." This means, we will build the best school we can for $27 million.

The Construction Committee will meet later this month to review the architect's progress. This is a smaller committee comprised of community members with construction experience and school staff. Dale Merten will again chair the committee. Their task will be to provide continuing input to the architects in order to be sure that the project is within budget and consistent with the vision of the Design Committee. In addition, this committee will review the design to be sure that it will serve students and staff well. In late June, the community will be invited to a meeting to review progress. Just before we go to bid in September, the community will be invited to see what is going out for bid. I encourage all to attend these meetings.

The design is shaping up nicely and we're working hard to squeeze every benefit we can out of the project with the resources available. This is going to be a tremendous new school worthy of the tax dollars you've invested. If you'd like more information, I invite you to contact me directly.