Muriel Battle High School construction proceeds on schedule

Tuesday, March 15, 2011 | 5:19 p.m. CDT; updated 8:51 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, March 16, 2011

COLUMBIA — Last month’s snowstorm didn’t delay construction progress at Muriel Battle High School.

The project is about 15 percent complete, said Nick Boren, deputy superintendent for Columbia Public Schools.

He said work was 90 percent complete on the precast and the concrete footings of the building on St. Charles Road.

Because of the scope of the project, weather days were built into the schedule from the beginning. Boren said that accounted for the various winter storms, and progress on Battle was proceeding on schedule.

“This is almost a three-year project, so there are significant weather days built in,” Boren said. The snowstorm "had no impact. If anything, we’re slightly ahead on the project.”

The $75 million construction budget remains intact, largely because of a $4 million contingency fund dedicated to unexpected expenses, as well as the necessity of staying on or under budget.

“We don’t have more money,” Boren said. “The project has to come in on or under budget.”

He said project managers are being conservative about cost estimates for furniture, fixtures and equipment.

In December, the off-site bid for developing access on St. Charles Road came in less than the original estimate. The bid was expected to be over $2 million, but ended up at $1.5 million.

After accepting the lower bid, the School Board restored items to the budget, including a softball field and visitor grandstands. It is likely that as the project continues, officials can add culinary equipment and tennis courts.

Boren said the district hopes to form a partnership with the city on the tennis courts to reduce the cost by about 50 percent. As construction gets farther along, he said the board might be more confident about having enough surplus to consider more additions.

The principal of the new high school is scheduled to be selected in January 2012, said Wanda Brown, assistant superintendent for secondary education. She said that person would not assume full responsibilities until July 2012.

Future teachers at Battle will include some who are already teaching at other Columbia public schools. In fall 2013, when grades 9-12 are consolidated in the high schools, teachers could move with them.

“Because kids are shifting, it only makes sense that teachers sometimes follow those kids,” Boren said.

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