Bids for new school con­struc­tion $5 mil­lion or more over bud­get

School board elects new lead­er­ship

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­news.com

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.

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