school construction

Teton School Superintendent Monte Woolstenhulme takes a tour of the new Driggs Elementary School last month. The new school in Driggs is on schedule with the new Victor Elementary school about four weeks behind Driggs.

New school additions and construction projects are over budget reported Headwaters Construction staff at last Monday’s school board meeting. In total, the building budget is $2.4 million over anticipated costs — this includes the two new elementary school construction and the additions to the high school and middle school, with the middle school coming as the biggest surprise to contractors. While school board members wrestled with this news, Superintendent Monte Woolstenhulme had a more measured perceptive upon hearing the dollar amounts

“Every board before us has had the same situation,” said Woolstenhulme of construction costs coming in higher than the amount of the approved bond funding. He said that looking at $2.4 million over the course of 80 to 90 years, or the life of these projects, helped him see the bigger picture of what the district was planning, though he acknowledged that right now these numbers can make some cringe.

Brent Douglass with Headwaters Construction reported that the high school and middle school additions were coming in high due to the current boom in development in East Idaho, and specifically within Teton Valley. He added that he had not anticipated new state mandates for the high school with regard to safety standards which required the planning team to add an additional restroom into the high school. He reminded the board that he is also working with projected numbers from two years ago when the bond numbers were set. In today’s market, he said sub-contractors are driving costs and right now, construction work is plentiful therefore also contributing to higher bids.

“We had to add additional restrooms for the building and a restroom is the most expensive space in a building,” said Douglass at the meeting. “That was a shock to all of us.”

The high school will see an addition to the gymnasium, added classrooms, a new commons area and an addition to the Ag shop. Douglass reported that the high school addition was coming in $182,000 over budget for construction only.

Douglass said it was the middle school addition that was truly a surprise for Headwaters. The middle school bid came in $530,000 over budget for construction only.

“That one was really basically a kick in the gut,” said Douglass at the meeting. “It was a big surprise to us. We completely redesigned what we could do at the middle school to get us back into budget.”

Woolstenhulme said that the school board could utilize Plant Facilities and Contingency Reserves to provide supplemental funding for the increased costs. In addition, the school district does own assets that could be sold for revenue such as the district office and tennis courts and the current Victor Elementary School.

As for the elementary school, the increase in cost has been attributable to the increase in square footage to the two new elementary schools. The school board increased the square footage of the Victor Elementary School and decreased the square footage of the Driggs Elementary School to accommodate projected population growth. However, adjusting the square footage accounted for a 8,300 square foot increase overall for the two new buildings. The square footage was reconfigured through work done by the building steering committees for both projects and adjusted according to enrollment projections.

The school board voted in favor of moving ahead with the high school addition. Headwaters Construction will take the middle school plans back to the drawing board to find more cost savings and present plans to the district in the next month.

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