Bids for new school construction $5 million or more over budget
School board elects new leadership
Charles County will likely need to come up with an additional $5 million by next month if the new elementary school under devel- opment for Billingsley Road is to be completed on time, after learning all construction bids have come in over budget.
Steven Andritz, director of plan- ning and construction, told the school board at its Jan. 10 meeting that the school system went through a pre-qualification process for the construction of the new school, currently dubbed Elementary School No. 22. Five contractors were pre-qualified, of whom three submitted bids on the $30 million project.
“The low bid was … about $5 million over our budget,” Andritz said.
The school system is targeted to receive $17.7 million in state funding and $12.3 million in county funding for the project, Andritz said.
“We are working with the county, looking at values that are out there on existing projects, remaining balances, other oppor- tunities from contingency funds, and funds that the county may have, to help make up this difference,” Andritz said.
Andritz said that reduc- ing the cost of the project would require redesigning the building, which would mean going back to the drawing board.
“If we were to reduce costs, there are a num- ber of steps that would have to be taken, none of which are time-friendly to our opening date,” Andritz said.
Andritz said that if a solution cannot be found by next month, the project’s proposed March 1 start may be delayed. The school is planned to open in the fall of 2018.
“We are still able, at this time, to maintain our current schedule and our current opening. If we’re able to resolve these funding issues, we’d have to get more contract approval, which we would look to bring forward to [the board] on Feb. 14,” Andritz said. “If that is the case, then we would still be able to proceed with our March 1 targeted start date.”
Prior to the discussion of the yet-unnamed elementary school, the board elected new leadership, with former vice chairman Michael Lukas taking the reins as chair- man and board member Barbara Palko assuming the vice chair position.
Board member Marga- ret Marshall nominated outgoing chairwoman Virginia McGraw, citing McGraw’s “graciousness, intelligence and inclusiveness,” a motion seconded by Palko.
Board member Mark Crawford nominated Lukas, seconded by fellow board member Victoria Kelly.
McGraw declined the nomination, however, during the three minutes allowed for nominees to speak, citing the two years she has already served as chairwoman.
“I did say at the outset that I would like to be chairperson and hold this office for two years, and I feel that others should have the opportunities that have been afforded to me,” McGraw said.
Following Lukas’ speech, he was unani- mously voted board chair- man.
“I will do my best to provide leadership to this board,” Lukas said. “It truly is a pleasure work- ing with people who have such a passion for educa- tion in Charles County.”
Palko was unanimously elected vice chairwoman.
The board also heard a report on the alternative high school programs at the Robert D. Stethem Educational Center, in- cluding the new “opt-in” program and the Virtual Academy pilot instituted this year.
Assistant Superinten- dent of Finance Randy Sotomayor presented the superintendent’s proposed $364.2 million Fiscal Year 2018 budget, which in- cludes additional funds for negotiations with em- ployee unions and for educating special education and English Language Learner students.
A public hearing and work session on the bud- get are scheduled for Jan. 23. The board is expected to vote to approve the budget at its Feb. 14 meeting.
Four people spoke during the public com- ments portion of the meeting, all of them fam- ily members of the late early childhood educa- tor Margaret Jamieson Thornton in regards to naming the new elementary school after her.
Thornton’s name is one of three finalists, along with former Deputy Superintendent Ronald G. Cunningham and former school board member Charles E. Carrington, which were recommended by an eight-member advisory committee.
Lydia T. Johnson, Thornton’s daughter, said her mother was a devoted educator who believed every young child could be taught.
“She was not afraid to communicate to parents as to what she saw the child needed, whether it was discipline or love,” Johnson said. “If she saw a child wasn’t learning the way the curriculum dictated, she found other ways to teach and get the same results.”
“Early childhood development was Margaret’s life and passion,” said her son, Leon Thornton.
The board is expected to vote on a final name for the school at its Feb. 14 meeting.