New elementary school bid approved, construction begins

Wednesday, April 16, 2008 | 9:36 p.m. CDT; updated 9:08 a.m. CDT, Friday, October 31, 2008

COLUMBIA — Mounds of dirt and uprooted trees cover the patch of ground that will become Columbia’s next public elementary school. Preparation for construction on the site began late last month as crews cleared trees, put in a construction entrance and brought in a construction trailer.

The district chose Columbia-based Professional Contractors and Engineers Inc. as the contractor to build the school. PCE worked with the district on its two newest schools, Paxton Keeley Elementary School, which opened in 2003, and Lange Middle School, which opened in 1997.

Facts on the most recently built elementary school

Paxton Keeley Elementary School, opened in 2003 Total cost: $11.06 million Construction: $9.58 million General expenses, including architect and engineer fees and material testing: $757,802 Furnishings and equipment: $730,620 New elementary school, opening in 2009 Total cost: $18.8 million (estimated) Construction: $16.27 million (estimated, taking into account all construction costs) General expenses: $1.3 million (estimated) Technology, furnishings and equipment: $1 million (estimated) Contingency fund: $230,000 (estimated)

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“We’ve been very pleased with their work in the past,” said Jack Jensen, assistant superintendent for elementary education.

PCE’s bid for construction, at $15.6 million, was the second lowest bid. The lowest bidder, Orf Construction, had an error of about $500,000 in its $15.1 million bid, Jensen said.

“Even though they said they’d honor the bid price, we had real concerns about how they would do that,” he said.

Groundbreaking occurred March 25 without ceremony. Although the rain and wet weather has led to some minor holdups, Jensen said everything is still on track. The school is scheduled to open for the 2009-2010 school year.

The new elementary school will cost almost $8 million more to build than Paxton Keeley. The difference can be accounted for in several ways, Jensen said, including higher construction costs. The new school will have a bigger gymnasium to better support the school’s physical education classes and the community, he said.

Another difference is in the school’s design, he said. Paxton Keeley has an expansive entry space, but the new school will have a “pod” design and feature multipurpose “discovery zone” areas within each classroom pod so that large groups of children can gather for presentations.

Currently, the district and the contractor are looking at options that could bring down the cost of the project, Jensen said.

Using an example from a different site, Jensen said the district had planned to have heavy-duty pavement but, on closer examination, decided the heavy-duty pavement only needed to go where buses and trucks would drive and not throughout the entire lot. Money could be saved by choosing a slightly lower-grade — but still effective — pavement for part of the lot.

“You always try to do the best quality you need,” Jensen said.

The new school site is near the intersection of Brown Station and Waco roads in the developing subdivision known as the Villages at Arbor Pointe. Waco currently ends at Brown Station and will be extended to the school by the time it opens in 2009.

Jensen said streets to that site, as well as water and sewer lines, are the responsibility of the developer. The city has plans to extend Waco all the way to U.S. 63, but definite dates aren’t set, he said.

The addition of the school will affect the boundaries of several other schools.

Field Elementary School will be turned into something else; one recommendation is to make it an early childhood center.

Field teachers and students can go to the new school.

“It will be a positive thing, seating that school with an established faculty,” Jensen said.

The current principal of Field, Carol Garman, will be the principal of the new school.

“I have been here with the faculty for four years; it is a cohesive faculty,” Garman said. “They are very focused on doing what is in the best interest of students. We’re all very excited about making the move and having state-of-the-art facilities for our kids.”

As for naming the school, Jensen said the district wants to leave that up to the families and students who will be part of the new school community. Students will have the opportunity to submit their ideas to the board. The board will decide on a name by the end of 2008, Jensen said.

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