Schools set to start upconstruction
SUMMIT COUNTY – After a delay of several months, groundbreaking for the construction of an addition to Summit High School and a major renovation of Summit Middle School will take place this spring, the Summit School District Board of Education decided last week.Both projects, originally slated to begin last fall, were temporarily derailed by unexpected inflation in the cost of building materials. A combination of factors – including construction demands in areas hit by Hurricane Katrina, high oil prices and a global building boom – contributed to double-digit inflation in construction prices, prompting the local delay.The two projects in question were part of a four-project facilities improvement plan authorized by local voters in November 2004 with a $32.5 million bond issue. The other two undertakings – renovations of Frisco Elementary and the Summit Education Center – were completed before last fall’s unusual spike in the cost of building supplies.When it became obvious construction would not meet budget limitations as originally planned, the school district’s construction management company, Architectural Resource Consultants (ARC) and design advisory groups from both schools went back to the drawing board. The goal was to develop modified plans for the projects that would meet budget constraints without sacrificing program commitments or product quality.”Although we will not be able to accomplish all we had hoped for as we began designing these projects before the hurricane season, we will be able to accomplish the promises made to the voters during the November 2004 election,” superintendent of schools Millie Hamner said.Overall cost of the four bond issue projects, including construction, furniture, equipment and permit and management fees, is pegged at $33.8 million, according to school district business manager Dan Hueneke. Good timing and an excellent school district credit rating contributed to a higher than expected return from the original bond sale, Hueneke said. This additional $1.8 million will be folded back into the projects.Construction schedules have not yet been finalized, but tentative completion dates are spring 2007 for the high school addition and fall 2007 for the middle school renovation. Middle school rotundas to gather dustMembers of the design advisory group at Summit Middle School, the district’s oldest building, developed a compromise design with several important components deferred until more funding can be found.The current plan, budgeted for $24.5 million, includes construction of two separate “learning communities,” renovation of the main entrance and the building’s central area, and creation of two full-sized gymnasiums.Omitted from the compromise design are replacement of the existing athletic field disrupted by new construction, kitchen renovation, and construction of a new access road to the school.Demolition of the school’s rotundas, which will no longer be used when the new learning communities are constructed, is also not covered by the new plan. ARC’s Tim Brekel told the board the vacant wing’s utilities will be disconnected and the area secured against trespassing. The rotundas will stand empty and boarded-up until the district can afford to remove them. A new bus loop, considered a priority feature by the district, according to Hamner, cannot be constructed until the unused rotundas are torn down. Plans modified for high school additionThe high school design approved last week is similarly scaled-back from the original concept.As recently as last June, the school board signed off on a design plan for the high school that consisted mainly of a 15,000-square-foot addition intended to house the school’s career and technical programs.The new wing, to be located at the south end of the existing building, was to include six program-specific classrooms for programs like culinary arts, wood shop and medical prep. A 1,600-square-foot “community commons” – a flexible-use meeting space – was also planned for the addition. Other improvements to existing structures included renovation of the newcomers’ center, work in the second floor science classrooms, and electrical repair of current classroom space.The new modified plan reduces the size of the addition to 9,400 square feet. The number of new classrooms has been reduced, and technical program offices have been scratched. A community/commons area has been maintained. The general aesthetic design and location of the wing remains the same.The possibility of drastic modification in the design was discussed at the school board meeting. Moving the addition to the school’s north end and using cheaper flat-roof construction were both money-saving options presented by ARC. The board’s decision to maintain the south end, pitched-roof design was supported strongly by the high school’s design advisory group.”We owe it to our community to do it the right way,” Gretchen Nies, Summit High’s director of athletics and activities and member of the advisory group, told the board.In addition to the new wing, the current plan also includes renovation of the pool area, general repairs to existing classrooms, and improvement of second floor science classrooms. Remodeling of the newcomers’ center and renovations to the areas used for the construction tech and theater tech programs, as well as computer and business technologies are also included.The total funding approved by the school board for the high school project as it is now planned is $5.4 million.Future direction for the projects The possibility exists, Hamner said, that some deferred items in the projects may still be affordable. The current budget includes contingency funds for unforeseen expenses.”We’re hopeful if we don’t have to dip into the contingency money, we may be able to accomplish more,” she said.The district is maintaining an alternate priority list, Hamner said, of features of the original plan. Many items have not been abandoned, only deferred.Once the projects are at “dry-in” – with the basic construction done – ARC’s Tim Brekel said, “We’re much more comfortable about spending contingency money.”Hamner indicated a ballot question might be in the works as a way to accomplish the original plan.”We may have to go to voters in ’07 and package unfunded parts in mill levees,” she told the board.Harriet Hamilton can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13624, or at email@example.com.
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