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.