Projects on time, on budget for LHISD

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

While Liberty Hill ISD is wrapping up the final odds and ends on the new Santa Rita Elementary campus – which welcomed students in late August – construction steam is picking up on the new middle school and the high school additions currently construction.

Construction manager Casey Sledge said close out for the final cost of the newly opened elementary campus has not been tallied, but the project will be under budget.

The Santa Rita project, which had a guaranteed maximum construction price of $27.2 million not counting soft costs – which included items like design and furniture – began with a contingency fund of $625,750 that is now sitting at $69,186 with only a few items remaining to be checked off the list.

Sledge said only a few minor items remain, some of which are being postponed until the holiday break to not disrupt campus activities.

With the first of four projects wrapping up in the $98.6 million bond package approved by voters in November 2018, Sledge said there are a number of positives beyond getting the building open and showing a savings.

“The best thing we’re going to learn out of Santa Rita Elementary is how to do the next elementary,” he said. “This will become a model, and hopefully every time we build a school we get more and more dialed in.”

The familiarity among team members – both in the district and among those connected to the construction – will also help on the other three projects.

“We’ve gotten a chance to know all the team players really well and a number of subcontractors that are coincidentally on other projects,” Sledge said. “Already having established relationships is very helpful.”

The district has spent 53 percent of the bond funds to date, at $52,319,164.

Construction on the new middle school, on 32 acres situated directly east of the intersection of Santa Rita Boulevard and Ronald Reagan, has gone vertical with portions of the project soon to be dried in.

“As of last week all of the tilt-wall panels are now vertical, not just poured,” Sledge said. “They’re going so quickly everything is vertical now and they’re really getting after it with very little weather delay. The classroom wing is nearly dried in and the roof is now installed.”

The contingency fund on this project, which began at $1.076 million, has grown with its first change order to $1.093 due to a credit.

“So far we’ve had one small internal change order and that is to credit about $15,000 and that is a net result of us changing the roof material,” Sledge said.

The campus is set to have a student capacity of 900 and has a budget of $50.5 million. The final price for the land was $2,138,063.25. It is planned to open in 2021.

The two-building campus will be about 150,000 square feet, compared to the 105,000 square feet in the new Santa Rita Elementary.

The east side of the main building of the new middle school is where two gyms, coaching and locker room facilities will be located. The location will allow access to the gyms after hours while easily closing off the remainder of the campus. It also allows controlled access to locker room and coaching offices.

The remainder of the main building is for administrative offices, kitchen and lunch room, as well as theater, band, art and career and technology classrooms.

All other classrooms will be located in the two-story second building on the west end of the property. The library is at the center of the academic building.

The classroom building is designed to have sixth-grade students primarily separated from seventh and eighth graders in one side of the second floor.

For the higher grades, humanities is located on the first floor with science classes on the second with lab space, all wrapped around the library space.

While the campus is designed for 900 students, many of the core spaces – such as the library and cafeteria – are sized larger so additions can be made to the campus without having to expand those spaces.

Also currently under construction is the new addition at the high school, with two of the three classroom wings currently at the high school being expanded, adding 21 classrooms and two fully-equipped science labs.

Of the $750,421 in contingency funds available on the high school project, just over $82,000 has been spent on a pair of change orders.

There were $49,464 in change orders associated with code changes.

“This is a result of plans going out for bid as the code review is underway. As a result of the code re view there were items we needed to change or add,” Sledge said.

The second change order – for $32,766 – stems from the discovery of an electric main discovered once plans were finalized that forced an adjustment to the plan for a new dance studio.

“There was an electric main that actually feeds the entire high school that was discovered and it was just in the way of the new dance studio corner,” Sledge said. “The ultimate solution was either relocating that electric line – a three phase line – which was absolutely an option and that was going to be $53,000. That got us to thinking about looking for a different option and that resulted in us relocating the building. Essentially we took the dance studio building and just slid it down the wall. There was plenty of room to do so.”

The guaranteed maximum price for the construction portion of the high school expansion project at $12,490,132. The original estimate or the high school renovations when the bond was proposed was $14.7 million which included both hard and soft costs.

The culinary arts addition will be set up with six student stations that include a refrigerator, sink, oven, cooktop, microwave and cabinet storage. Shared dishwashers and a teacher demonstration table will be set up in the middle of the room.

There is a dance addition consisting of a dance studio, teacher’s office, storage room, locker rooms for dance and cheer, as well as shared restrooms. The dance studio will have a wood floor with mirrors and dance bars on the wall. The construction type and finishes will match the existing building.

Renovations are planned in the Career and Technology Education (CTE) wing to accommodate expansion of existing programs. The renovations will create separate CNA and Pharmacy Tech labs.

The existing computer labs will be renovated to become CTE classrooms. The robotics program will move over from its current home in the Fine Arts wing to the CTE wing.

The project is expected to be completed in time for the 2021-2022 school year — the same time the new middle school is scheduled to open.

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