05262017Fri
Last updateWed, 24 May 2017 1am

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Back to basics as LASD continues to struggle with renovations

Amid a detailed Los Altos School District discussion on the renovation and reopening of Covington School, information regarding the possible negative effects of multiple add-alternate bids brought a pause to the proceedings. Finally, board member Duane Roberts said quietly, "I am very uncomfortable with what I am hearing."

Board members quickly acknowledged, at their Oct. 16 meeting, that they needed professional input regarding bid strategy before any vote on Covington. Because of the tight schedule, they agreed to refer the question to the experienced construction specialists on the Construction Oversight Committee at their meeting Oct. 19. The school board deferred the vote until after the committee's analysis.

Board members and district supporters have been struggling with the $94.7 million construction plan, which voters approved in 1998, but is now as much as 40 percent overbudget.

Committee member Gary Walz advised, "If (you are) not planning to do it, do not put it into the bid. It is better to bid what is really going to happen."

"I never had success in getting 'deducts,'" Roger Menard said. Menard said he "doesn't have faith in architects' numbers and wants some hard numbers based on things we think we are probably going to do. That gives us real numbers, so we can lock someone in."

At the special board meeting immediately following, the unanimous decision was to bid Covington on schedule within the next two weeks, with the east wing of a proposed new building as an add-on. The base bid would be on all items required for health, safety and modernization, including a new roof.

With extra study sessions and an additional meeting, school board members maintained the tight original schedule for school construction, and avoided additional delays which would cause further cost escalation. The Covington bid should provide a current costs basis to add to the recent Egan construction figures before the final decisions on the full construction program.

School board members, informed with updated cost information gathered from staff members, Dave McNulty and Randy Kendall; construction expertise from the COC; and input from the communities of Santa Rita, Springer, Oak, Bullis and Loyola, struggled with the conflict between finances and needs.

Their special study session Oct. 16 produced the synthesis of the data-gathering. Board member Jay Thomas pressed for a framework definition. The board and staff turned the District Facilities Office into a classroom, with Randy Kenyon, assistant superintendent for business services, pressed into service as recorder, while they analyzed alternative plans.

Given the current information, three possible scenarios could be defined: Framework 1 - complete Masterplan as currently defined, using two full camp schools, resulting in nine renovated and expanded schools completed by 2005; hope the figure of a $50 million overrun is exaggerated and/or that the deficit could be overcome by aggressive fund raising.

Framework 2 - three phases: Complete Egan and Blach as designed, minus music buildings, which might be funded with outside funding. This would service all the students in the district as they move into the intermediate schools. Redo all the buildings existing on the elementary school campuses (6 or 7 to be determined) involving health, safety and modernization needs as defined on the Masterplan. The proposed new construction to eliminate portables would become phase 3, scheduled when additional funding is available.

Framework 3 - proposed construction would begin now and proceed through the schools as scheduled, completing each school fully until the funding runs out. Presuming the validity of the inflation figures, not all schools would be finished. The remaining schools would be upgraded when additional funding is available.

The board went back to fundamental principles, defined at the beginning of the process, to evaluate the options: health, safety and renovation of deteriorating infrastructure have had highest priority. Members factored in their obligation to maintain fiscal responsibility and Superintendent Marge Gratiot's reiteration that all the schools must have equivalent educational facilities.

The board has not taken an official vote among the three frameworks. However, once they defined the ground rules, discussion focused on the middle option.

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