This rendering of the new Ranson Elementary School shows the front of the school building with a canopy over the bus loading area.
Jefferson County Schools (JCS) received three sealed bids for the construction of the new Ranson Elementary School on February 9, 2023. The lowest bid was $31,059,000 — $8.77 million above the construction cost estimate of $22,291,705 that had been approved by the West Virginia School Building Authority (SBA) in December 2022. Other project costs have increased by $600,000, for a total funding gap of approximately $9.5 million. Joyce White, Deputy Superintendent of Operations, had noted the expectation of construction cost increases during her presentations to the school board last November. At that time she noted that the cost increases could be as high as 50 percent.
The Ranson project bid results were presented to the school board at its February 27 meeting. Randy Jones of the ZMM firm, the architect for the project, gave an overview of other school projects in West Virginia that had recently bid. He noted that construction costs of school building had been in the range of $294 to $300 per square foot for projects that had been bid in early 2021. Since then, projects similar in size to the Ranson project have been getting bids that have ranged from $363 to $535 per square foot.
More Funding From The State
Jones noted that other districts had been successful in obtaining additional funding from the SBA for these projects. Several board members also mentioned that they had had conversations with the state’s Superintendent of Schools and were hopeful that JCS could receive additional funding, particularly since the original grant was low, as a percentage of the project, compared to other projects funded by the SBA during the same cycle.
White presented several options to proceed with the current bid (see related article) proposing $2 million in project cost reductions and requests for additional state funding. For the cost reductions, all of the changes would be on the exterior features, so there would be no change in the interior design. White also presented a sixth option to reduce the project cost by $3 million, but that would require a redesign and rebid of the project per the requirements of the SBA. The school board voted unanimously to direct White to notify the SBA that JCS intends to proceed with the low bid and for the staff to negotiate with the SBA on additional funding. With an April 10 deadline to accept the bid, both Superintendent Gibson and White remarked that they expected the discussions with the SBA to proceed quickly.
Shepherdstown Project Still To Bid
The status of the Shepherdstown Elementary School project was not discussed at the February 27 meeting. The SBA is still reviewing proposed changes to utility services (from a connection to the Shepherdstown water and sewer system to an on-site well and septic system) and has not yet approved JCS to put that project out for bid. Left unsaid was the expectation that the board will be discussing a similar cost increase on that project in a few months.By Steve Pearson