First round of bid packages OK’d in school bond projects

SWARTZ CREEK — Shovels will start hitting the ground any day now at four of the five Swartz Creek elementary schools.

The Board of Education last week approved bid packages for office renovations and construction of maker spaces and secure entryways at Dieck, Elms Road, Morrish and Syring. Board members also approved bids for a new fire alarm system at the Middle School.

Bids for Gaines Elementary School will go before the board in September.

Getting the work done while school is in session presents a challenge, said school Superintendenet Ben Mainka.

Mainka said he will keep parents and staff advised of any classroom changes or other temporary accommodations.

“A lot of the foundations for the maker spaces and office additions will not interrupt the flow of our operation too much,” Mainka said. “But as soon as we get into renovations and tearing down walls, those are things we’ll have to make sure students are separated from, so there may be times when have to move students form one room to another. We will have strong communication with families and staff. We also have construction managers, and this is what they do.”

Construction managers and onsite safety officers will oversee all of the work and make sure the proper barriers are in place to provide dustfree environments so students aren’t exposed to airborne particles.

The project costs are just shy of $10 million, or close to 20 percent of the total amount of the $48 million bond issue.

Following voter approval of the bond in November, the school board and construction advisors went right to work putting together specifications for the projects.

The process hit a snag, however, when the bids came in at more than double the expected amount. Mainka attributed the numbers to a “saturated” construction market and the limited scope of the projects.

In hopes of getting the secure entrances installed at the elementary schools before the start of the 2019- 20 school year, the school board only bid that portion of the overall school improvement plan.

“Much to our disappointment, the bids were significantly higher than projected,” Mainka said. “So, we determined not to award those bids and we made it clear we were going back to the drawing board and repackaging everything, and going back out for bids.”

In addition to the secure entrances, the revised packages included additional renovations and mechanical, electrical, and air conditioning work for all of the elementary schools, which is enough work to keep contractors busy for a year or more.

That made the proposals more attractive to the contractors, and worked to the district’s advantage, Mainka said.

“We are very, very excited about the fact that the prices came in under projected costs,” he said. “We are able to get the work done under budget and in a timely fashion.”

Site work, such as parking lots and approaches, will be done later.