Architects will soon get to work on Arlington schools

05/27/2014 11:02 AM

05/27/2014 11:02 AM

Arlington school officials will soon start hiring architects to design the first phase of the district’s $663 million bond package.

In less than a month, trustees will select architects, vote on the first bond sale and the sequencing of projects after voters overwhelmingly approved the district’s historic bond package May 10. The bond package includes updates to virtually every school in the district.

School officials spent the past two months working with Jacobs Project Management — the same firm that conducted the facilities audit on district schools for the bond package — on the planning and implementation of 111 projects to be bundled in 43 bid packages.

On June 26, the board will decide what projects are priority. The design of the first phase of projects is slated to begin in July, and includes updates to junior high schools to make way for a career and technical center, six new multipurpose activity centers and two new elementary schools.

These projects are part of a five-year construction plan to be completed by the fall of 2019. The first phase will end with a bang with the completion of the district’s $46 million districtwide career and technical center on Hutcheson Junior High’s former grounds in August 2017.

Superintendent Marcelo Cavazos emphasized that students and staff will not relocate until the 2015-16 academic year.

He also said the district will coordinate with schools to make sure construction does not impact students. Construction is not slated to begin until April 2015, starting with updates to Lamar High School.

“As we phase out projects later we will have as little interference with the school day as we can,” said Bob Carlisle, executive director of plant services for the district. “The goal is to hit these schools as few times as we can.”

Fluid completion dates

A districtwide fine arts center would be completed by August 2018 as a part of the third phase of construction, and a districtwide athletics complex would be completed by August 2019. Updates to elementary schools and transportation are listed in the final phase of construction.

But these completion dates are fluid, Calisle said.

The phasing of projects is to help the district organize the workload. Facility updates and new buildings were selected based on need, he said.

For example, the first phase includes the building of two new elementary schools to relieve overcrowding in the district. Those schools — one at Baird Farm Road and the other at the Workman Junior High site — would be completed by August 2016.

“We have a pressing need to get those buildings to open to take care of capacity issues in the district,” Carlisle said.

“As we go through all of this we realize there are some things that might need to be moved. For example, we have a roof scheduled to be replaced in year five that might need to be moved back earlier — it’s fluid in that sense,” he said.

Jacobs Project Management has also recommended that the district hire a manager to oversee budget and schedule updates, a cost-control specialist, two purchasing specialists, six project managers, two construction specialists and a specialist to maintain the district’s facility needs database.

Those positions will be discussed as a part of the district’s budget talks, which will be wrapped up by June, Cavazos said. Positions would be paid for out of the budget, not the sale of bonds.

Striving to be transparent

Cindy Powell, the district’s chief financial officer, made a presentation to the board at a work session meeting May 14. At that meeting, trustees asked her to update the request for qualifications (RFQ) forms to add weight to local and historically underutilized businesses.

“We are going to make the RFQ transparent and scored consistently. Our overall objective is to be very transparent. Our desire is to be open to create opportunity and be consistent in how we evaluate submissions,” Powell said.

Powell said the district will soon post design and construction schedules on the district’s website at aisd.net.

“When we take in submissions from architects what we are looking for is the best experience,” Powell said. “There could be as many as 43 or fewer.”

District officials said it’s too soon to tell how many jobs can come out of the five-year process.

But Cavazos said the district will assemble design teams of students, parents, teachers and staff to provide user input and make sure all the updates address the needs of the users.

“This work and this bond is transformational for our school district and for the opportunities it provides our students,” Cavazos said.

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