School Districts aren’t immune from financial frustrations, especially when construction costs skyrocket while Santa Clara Unified School District is in the middle of creating cost estimates for elementary school upgrade projects.
Elementary School Remodels
According to Mark Schiel, Chief Business Official, with inflation and the rise in construction costs, they may not be able to achieve as much with Measure BB bucks as they hoped. Santa Clara Unified has been collaborating with Briarwood, Bracher and Westwood Elementary schools for the past year to create Master Plans. However, in the past year construction costs have skyrocketed by 24.6% so they are trying to maximize the dollars they do have while looking into additional funding sources to complete these projects at these schools, said Schiel at the Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday, Nov. 10
The Master Plans for these projects have been in the works with the schools’ communities. Michal Healy, Director of Facility Development and Planning, and staff have been meeting with school sites and their communities to gather input and project priorities. They compiled the projects in the Master Plans with some in the “funded” status — meaning they were slated to use Measure BB funds — while others were “unfunded” — or would not be covered by Measure BB. However, with the higher construction costs Measure BB can’t cover as much as they thought and some projects that were previously in the “funded” section had to be moved to “unfunded” status.
Healy and Schiel emphasized that the cost estimates are very rough and are bound to change. Only the summer work has been approved for these schools. Schiel acknowledged that this isn’t a fun reality to share but it’s honestly what they’re facing.
“Who would have anticipated that we would have experienced a 24.6% increase in construction costs in a one-year period of time?” mused Schiel.
“It is unheard of to have that significant increase in [construction] cost estimates,” he continued. “So when we thought about this presentation, we knew there would be uncomfortableness when talking about the current cost estimates that are more than what we set aside for some of these projects. But we think it’s important to point out that this is our current known reality. And we also know that when we go out to bid on these projects in 18 months to two years from now, we will be in a different economic climate. We will be able to do an update at that time.”
In the meantime, Healy and her team are looking at alternative funding sources to get more of these projects completed. For example, Bracher Elementary School is being remodeled to accommodate 600 students since many new families are expected to come from new construction in the Lawrence Station Area. They are looking into using developer fees to supplement Measure BB dollars. Until then, some highly anticipated projects like the new PE classrooms had to be bumped to “unfunded” status.
The district also has many applications at the State for additional funds and reimbursements. When the State gets more money for these types of things, Schiel hopes they will be in line for a cut.
The summer work will start in the Summer of 2023. These plans will come back to the Board in December. After that, the Bond Department will begin the design of the Phase 1 projects.
This quarter’s Difference Makers were celebrated by the Board and staff at Thursday’s meeting.
Susan Abudra from Hughes Elementary School was honored as the Certificated Staff Difference Maker. For the Classified Staff Difference Maker, Cecilia Altamirano from Bowers Elementary School was named. Klara Maj from Washington Open Elementary School was celebrated as the Community Member honoree. And lastly, the Group Difference Maker was the Huerta PTSA Board from Huerta Middle School.
Cecilia Chico Carrillo was approved as the new Administrative Secretary for Human Resources.
The last meeting of the calendar year is on Thursday, Dec. 8.
And yet they continue to plan an 800+ NEW public elementary school campus that is not needed when multiple schools have low enrollment!