The dollar figure for the facilities plan that includes the five elementary schools, and middle and high schools in the district is currently at $64.5 million, it was announced by Turner Construction Company at a special Board of Education work session held on Saturday, Jan. 13. Board members, architects, construction experts and educators reviewed the plans with an eye to where, and where not, costs could be cut.
Status of Plans Currently Under Review
At this time, the cost estimate for the middle school, which has already been "micro-managed" costwise by the architects, is $18,279,123, down from the $20-$22 million figure recently reported in this paper. According to the lead architect Michael Manetta, the plan is the same. However, changes in the scope of the rooms, finishes and architectural detailing brought about this savings. Board President Richard Sussman called this reduction a "great accomplishment." Superintendent of Schools Dr. Al Inserra stated that the latest middle school plan provides a quality environment for the kids. Middle school Principal Sansone agreed. Dr. Inserra added that the house concept is served: He is pleased with the library/media center and the science rooms. "It maintains the integrity of the program," he said.
The number for the high school is $24,903,870, and the plan has been through a round of cuts including reducing the number of additional classrooms from 24 to 18. Commenting on the revised plan, Schreiber High School Principal Dr. Sid Barish said, "It captures our salient requests." He especially likes the library/media center and the enlarged cafeteria and student commons area being created for, among other things, a satellite cafeteria with possible lunch cart service.
Pleased with the new improved traffic flow in the building, he noted that currently a number of corridors dead end. In the new plan, more stairways go up and down, resulting in an improvement in flow.
He also likes the fact that the architect included adequate space to build. "without much of a hassle," the additional six classrooms Dr. Barish relinquished in an effort to reduce the cost of the plan. He stated that he requested the six classroom option for the future because, "If the projections hold, we will max out the current and proposed classroom space in five years when the current elementary enrollment reaches high school."
The remaining $21 million is for the elementary schools. Board members and educators are now reviewing these plans which were first presented at the Jan. 13 meeting, and will discuss possible cost savings at the next few meetings.
As a point of information, the estimates, which were worked up by Turner Construction Company, are based on current market conditions, contract and supplier pricing, standard educational construction for NY schools, project scope and architect design intent, prevailing wage rates and State Education standards and regulations. (Also the costs are based on comparable projects, according to the Turner Database.)
As a point of information, the assistant superintendent for business reported that the amount of tax dollar increase for the average home assessed at $10,000 would be $399 per year for a $60 million bond. (It's important to note that this is the assessed valuation of the home, as determined by the Nassau County Assessment Rolls, not the home's market value.) She added that the cost for every $10 million for the same $10,000 home is $67 per year.
Generally speaking, the entire plan is now being assessed by board members and educators for further possible scope reductions, cost savings and possible reconfigurations.
In the meantime, the architects, among other things, are reworking the plan at certain elementary schools to see if a redistribution of students to Sousa, Manorhaven, Daly and Guggenheim can save a significant amount of money (perhaps $5 or $6 million), so that Salem, whose cost to reopen as an elementary school is currently about $12-$14 million. (Included in this figure are the costs of relocating the workshops and administrative offices that are now housed at the Salem facility.)
The main problem with reopening Salem is that the State Education Department considers it a new school, since it hasn't been used for several years. Therefore, everything must be up to state standards; nothing is "grandfathered in." The Spector Group mentioned that it might even pay in the long run to demolish the building and put up a brand new one. The cost, which Michael Spector said was an estimate "from the hip," might be around $15 million, though he cautioned that he didn't want to be held to that figure. He also advised that new construction often costs less than renovating.
This particular cost savings does, however, have a real downside. As board member Dean Nardone, who has always been a strong advocate of reopening Salem, pointed out, "We're liable to lose the yes votes of the voters who want to have Salem reopened." Other board members responded that it might be quite a considerable savings. Mr. Nardone replied, "Unfortunately, it would be a decision that this board would have to live with.
Another possible savings may be realized at Daly, at the suggestion of board member Julie Meyer, the board is contemplating moving the four pre-K classes currently slated for Daly into four of the six portables planned for Weber (in the short-term solution for this fall). Once Weber's permanent additional classrooms are on line, the four portables, which are state-aid able, could be relocated somewhere in the district, thereby creating a community pre-K center. This change would then eliminate the necessity to, and cost of, constructing four new classrooms at Daly.
As a result of a cost cutting review made before the Jan.9 BOE meeting and between the one held on Jan. 13, some minor savings were made. For example, rather than replace the existing kitchen equipment at the high school with more modern, compacts to increase working space in the kitchen area, Turner suggested that this idea be dropped in order to save approximately $400,000.
Considerable savings were also realized by changing the design plan for the Weber cafeteria. Instead of expanding that cafeteria to the rear of the building, which would involve the high cost of moving telephone wires, the proposal will take part of the all-purpose room, which was previously a kitchen, and use it for "brown-baggers," and most likely include vending machines and a hot and cold lunch cart.
The gym situation remains somewhat problematic for some board members, notably Peter Wezenaar and Alan Baer, who have youngsters in our local athletic organizations. While the proposed meets the minimum state standards for gym stations for the physical education programs at Daly, Manorhaven and Salem, it does not create a gym to run normal full-court basketball games. "We're not really increasing available indoor space for night and weekend play for the community," noted Mr. Baer. He added that both adult, adult ed. and youth groups already compete for limited gym space. Said Mr. Baer, "The youth groups especially are bursting at the seams, and with many more public and private school students entering the system over the next several years, the problem of finding gym space will only be exacerbated." (Note: there are currently full-sized gyms at Sousa, Guggenheim, Weber and Schreiber.)
One board member asked Dr. Inserra what happened to the board's hope that they could help provide more gym space for both the athletic programs in the district and the community at large? He replied that it was gone "a long time ago."