School construction will last through 2019
LEAVENWORTH — Cascade School District's construction projects, once underway, will last several years.
- Alpine Lakes Elementary School, being built on the former practice football field behind the bus barn on Titus Road, is moving forward this spring and is expected to be completed in summer 2018. It will be accessed off Pine Street. Osborn Elementary School students and teachers will move in for the 2018-19 school year.
- That same year, students from Peshastin-Dryden Elementary School will move into Osborn while expansion and renovation to that building is completed. The bids on the Peshastin-Dryden project will be opened in January or February 2018. The building is expected to be finished in the summer 2019 and students will return home that fall. After that, the plan is to sell off the half of the Osborn property where the elementary school is located. The city of Leavenworth has expressed an interest in turning the property into a park, which means razing the building. The district offices will remain where they are (in the old middle school building) on Evans Street. That's also where the new tennis courts are being built. They were started in October, but wet weather delayed the project. The site is still covered in snow, so the courts will not be complete in time for this year's tennis season.
- At Cascade High School, in the meantime, work is set to start at the end of this month or early April, depending on the snow melt. The project will be done in phases and is expected to be complete in January or February 2019.
LEAVENWORTH — Bill Motsenbocker had some sleepless nights in January and February.
The Cascade School District superintendent’s worries went beyond wicked winter weather that wreaked havoc on school schedules. His wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night moments were focused on opening construction bids for two projects — a new elementary school and a remodel and expansion at Cascade High School. The projects already had been delayed a year because the first bids came in too high.
He is sleeping better now.
Bid openings on Jan. 19 and Feb. 9 came in under estimates. Lydig Construction of Spokane won a $25 million contract for the high school project. Fowler General Construction of Richland won the $13.1 million Alpine Lakes Elementary School project which will replace Osborn Elementary School.
The original bids for the high school project, opened in August, had come in 10 percent over the estimate. The elementary school project had come in 20 percent over. Those are two of the three school construction projects included in a 20-year bond approved by voters in 2015. The third project, an expansion of Peshastin-Dryden Elementary School, is set to go to bid next year.
“We rejected all the bids for both schools. The architects had to go back and redesign the schools to meet the budget,” Motsenbocker said. “To be honest, we took a credibility hit from our community. They gave us $69.5 million to build three schools, the most the community has given the district ever, by about triple. We came back with some really nice designs, but the bids came back over-budget. We were blamed for that, and rightly so.”
The wrench in the works was a radical change in the construction climate during the year-plus lag between completing the designs to going out to bid, he said.
Architects were hired in May 2015 to complete the design. Design West Architects of Kennewick was chosen for the elementary school and NAC Architecture of Spokane designed the high school.
Then came the first round of construction bids.
“The construction bidding climate was so dynamic, things were changing every day. The architects were pretty conservative but 16 months later, when it went to bid, the market was in a different place. We just missed the mark,” he said.
The miscalculation sent the architects and the school advisory committees back to the drawing board, working to pare down the projects to meet the budget.
The architects paid for the redesign.
“That’s one of the big questions I get,” Motsenbocker said. “But it was part of the contract. They had to hit the mark and they didn’t.”
It was painful, though.
“You can’t get below budget by changing the color of the carpet or the paint on the walls. You have to actually reduce square footage,” he said.
They let go of the 8,000-square-foot full-size gym that had been included at the new elementary school and revamped the high school to reduce square footage, opting to remodel the existing career and technical education building rather than include it in the main building. They revised the locker room and multi-purpose room redesigns, which resulted in some footprint changes. The new two-story academic wing portion of the high school, which will be built in the old parking lot area and connected to the existing building via an enclosed walkway, moved 40 feet to the west, and will require additional dirt work this spring.
The new plan upholds the promises to the community, Motsenbocker said, which included keeping the current grade configuration, with kindergarten through second grade at Peshastin-Dryden, grades 3-5 at the new Alpine Lakes Elementary School, grades 6-8 at Icicle River Middle School and grades 9 to 12 at the high school.
“We promised up-to-date, state-of-the-art facilities that were safe,” he said. “We said we wouldn’t build a Taj Mahal, but the schools would be attractive and last for 40 to 50 years.”
The plans include future expansion options — with space for eight additional classrooms at the high school and four at the elementary school that could be funded with a two-year capital projects levy when needed. The elementary school site also has the space for that full-size gym in the future.
The challenge was not to cut too much, Motsenbocker said.
“We pushed and shoved with the architects a little bit,” he said. “They didn’t want to have to go out to bid for a third time, so they wanted to cut it way back. We had to push so it wasn’t scraped down to bare bones, even to the point where they asked me to sign a paper that it was being done at the request of the owner. I was OK with that.”
But he didn’t know for certain until the bids were opened.
This week’s scheduled arrival of the contractor’s trailer at Cascade High School is a sign that construction season is on the way.
“They said they might come in and do some snow removal to help dry things out faster,” he said.
The hope is to be underway by the end of the month.