The builder for a $15 million school construction project in Richmond County has been confirmed.
On July 10, the Richmond County School Board voted unanimously to award the contract for the project to Southwood Builders at $14.4 million.
The company will be in charge of constructing additions to Rappahannock High School (RHS) and Richmond County Elementary School (RCES).
The new school additions will accommodate the relocation of students from the existing Richmond County Intermediate School.
In addition to the new wings, RHS will feature a 600-seat auditorium with a music room and 1,000-seat gymnasium.
Southwood was originally the lowest bidder of six companies that were considered by Richmond County Public Schools (RCPS) at $15,132,000.
Superintendent Greg Smith noted that the bid was negotiated down to $14.4 million to allow RCPS to preserve contingency monies in the amount of approximately $700,000 for the project.
Smith explained that contingency monies were only to be used for unperceived expenses in the project that were not covered by the contract, such as different types of asbestos remediation that may have to take place.
Preserving the contingency, however, meant the elimination of 2,800 square feet from the high school additions, or three classrooms and a computer lab, from the project.
Smith said he did not foresee the cut having an adverse impact to the instructional program.
“I talked with [Principal Jesse] Boyd about the…use of the facility, and we can make it work,” said Smith.
Based on a reported student enrollment of approximately 1160 at RCPS during the 2012-2013 school year, an average grade size of 89 ranging from grades K to 12, and a projection of 26 designated classrooms at RHS, the student-to-teacher ratio for the high school upon the project’s completion was estimated to be 17-to-1.
The three classrooms that were eliminated from the project would have brought the ratio down to 15-to-1.
It is important to note that the calculations are based on core instruction classrooms alone and do not include special instruction areas such as music, art and science labs.
The averages also do not speak to what the total student enrollment will be for the 2015-2016 school year following the estimated completion of construction.
Another revision in the site plan cut out provisions for a submerged retention water distribution complex near the proposed elementary wing. The school division replaced the provisions with plans for a retention pond by the school’s baseball field to cut costs, according to Smith.
Mark Furgurson, of SKANSKA, both designs accomplished the school’s goal of controlling storm water runoff, with the difference being aesthetic.
The complex, noted Furgurson, would have consisted of a series of underground pipes around the elementary school, whereas the retention pond will be aboveground.
“It’s going to save us right around $800,000,” Smith said in reference to the pond.
Aside from having the lowest initial bid, Southwood was also well received by Smith for its reputation and past work.
Smith had contacted several superintendents and individuals in the school construction business in regards to Southwood.
“They have received very positive recommendations from those individuals,” said Smith, adding: “I can say I’ve gone to the website and reviewed their list of projects and the scope of their projects, and it’s quite impressive.”
Dist. 2 School Board Member and Chairman John Brown was impressed with how well Southwood worked with RPCS.
He also noted that the company came the closest of the bidders in matching what the school division aims to accomplish with the construction project.
Smith, however, said the alternate bid items that were initially listed have been deferred until the end of the project.
The items consist of: a gym divider curtain for RCES listed at $8,200; interior lighting replacement for RCES at $117,000; interior re-painting of RCES at $39,000; parking lot improvements at RCES at $111,000; and athletic field improvements at RHS that will not include previously planned provisions for the high school track.
Smith noted that the costs to include the track in the plan were too far outside the school’s construction project budget.
Smith added that negotiations have been completed and the contract is close to being finalized.
“We are moving forward quickly to affirm the contract and get it signed,” said Smith, who claimed that the end result of the project would be a “real source of pride for the Richmond County community.”
Dist. 4 School Board Member Brenda Pemberton expressed her excitement at RCPS finally securing a contract for the additions and renovations to the elementary and high schools, thus allowing the school division to close the middle school in two years.
She added that with the additional renovations, she was looking forward to better security in the schools, as well as to more people being able to attend home games in the proposed gymnasium.
Pemberton also noted that an auditorium would foster better community relations by having a number of activities and cultural events for local residents and visitors to enjoy.
She added that having improved facilities would hopefully stimulate economic growth in the county.