DECATUR — The wide-ranging plan to transform the facilities of Decatur Public Schools took several steps forward Tuesday with measures approved by the board of education.
Known as the BOLD Facility Plan, the five-year project aims to decrease the number of facilities from 22 to 17, increasing the capacity of some popular programs and modernizing buildings with the addition of air conditioning. Officials have estimated its cost at $60 million.
The board approved, without discussion, an agreement to hire O’Shea Builders Inc. to serve as construction manager for the project. According to documents provided to the school board, the district will pay the Springfield company 3.25% of construction costs for the project, as well as “expenses for general conditions.” The company up until now has been working with the district under a $145,000 pre-construction contract.
Fred Bouchard, assistant superintendent of support services, said after the meeting that the 3.25% figure is based on a projected $40 million to $45 million in construction costs.
Board members also discussed how to pay for the facilities plan, a large part of which will require the district to issue bonds. Chief Operational Officer Todd Covault presented several options for repaying the debt, ranging from no increase in the property tax levy to an increase of 2 cents each year for the next decade. The latter option, which was recommended by Covault, would cost the owner of a $100,000 home $66.67. No vote was made Tuesday night. The board is expected to discuss the matter further next month.
The board on Tuesday also approved identifying $4.5 million from their working cash fund to cover costs related to the facilities plan. Covault said that it totals $4.8 million and typically serves as the “rainy day” fund.
The $4.5 million will be replenished to the working cash account sometime in mid-fall, when the district completes bond issuances.
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“We anticipate to award bids in the coming months for the Thomas Jefferson portion of the project,” Covault said, referring to the 4735 E. Cantrell St. middle school. “So it’s good to have that money just in case.”
Thomas Jefferson Middle School is being renovated as part of the plan and will serve as the home for the district’s Montessori programs, now located at Garfield Montessori School and Enterprise School. Students at Thomas Jefferson are merging with those at Stephen Decatur Middle School, which will be newly renovated to accommodate all of the students by this fall.
The board also approved $300,000 in additional spending for Stephen Decatur renovations. The additional spending accounts for costs not included in the initial budget of $500,000, such as cafeteria furniture and salaries for buildings and grounds staff who are completing much of the work on the facility, according to board documents.
Representatives from Because Life Deserves Design, the architecture firm working on the facilities project, presented what the Thomas Jefferson renovations could look like. The facility could have a combined library and cafeteria area, technology and furniture that enhance the Montessori program experience and dividable classrooms that will allow teachers to combine classes or work in small groups.
“We have included spaces in the hallways and other spots in the buildings where teachers can show students home economics skills like how to do laundry,” said architect Kim Kurtenbach.
Representatives from the firm BLDD also presented renovations for Johns Hill Magnet School, which could include first-floor classrooms having access to a playground areas, locker rooms that will double as dressing rooms for performances and large windows lining the entrance of the school.
“We are replacing a beautiful, majestic building that has served the community for many years,” BLDD architect Todd Cyrulik said. “We wanted to present something that allows people driving by to understand what is going on inside this school.”
Superintendent Paul Fregeau praised the district's work on the project. "Johns Hill will literally be a beacon on a hill because of BLDD," he said.