Board OKs contracts for Robert Smalls, Battery Creek projects

From staff reports

The Beaufort County Board of Education tonight approved construction contracts for the next two major projects funded with proceeds from the November 2019 bond referendum.

The Board approved a $53 million contract with Kansas City-based JE Dunn Construction to build a new Robert Smalls International Academy and demolish the existing facility, which will be the single largest project approved by county voters in the referendum.

The Board also approved a $46 million contract with Columbia-based M.B. Kahn Construction to completely renovate Battery Creek High School’s academic and athletic facilities.

Work on the bond referendum’s first two major projects has largely been completed. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on Sept. 23 for additional classroom wings at River Ridge Academy, and a new two-story classroom wing at May River High is expected to be open when students return in January 2021 from winter break. M.B. Kahn Construction was the builder for both projects.

A variety of referendum-funded projects at other district schools will be spread over the next three to four years.

“We’re making outstanding progress, and we’re also on schedule and on budget,” Superintendent Frank Rodriguez said in a release. “Our students and employees will be excited and energized by these wonderful new facilities that will enhance their academic opportunities.”

Design work at Robert Smalls and Battery Creek is already under way with architects approved by the Board, and stakeholder feedback on both projects was gathered at community meetings. Additional community meetings will be held in November (for Robert Smalls) and December (for Battery Creek).

Construction at Robert Smalls is scheduled to begin in summer 2021, with the new building completed in December 2022. Once students and staff are relocated to the new building in January 2023, the old building will be demolished.

The school’s new athletic facilities will be completed by August 2023 in time for the beginning of the 2023-24 academic year.

Battery Creek High’s complete renovation will be done in phases so academic instruction will not have to be interrupted during construction. The work is scheduled to be completed by August 2023.

The two construction firms approved by the Board of Education – JE Dunn for Robert Smalls and M.B. Kahn for Battery Creek – were recommended by a committee consisting of two principals, two members from the district’s Office of Facilities, Planning and Construction and one community member with experience overseeing projects.

Scoring on construction bids was based on factors that included relevant experience and quality of the contractor, relevant experience and quality of the contractor’s team, fee structures and other considerations.

Robert Smalls, Battery Creek and the rest of the school district’s referendum projects were included in a comprehensive list of facilities needs identified in early 2019 by an independent committee of county residents. Members of the Community Project Review Committee visited 26 schools in Beaufort and other districts and received presentations from outside experts before producing the district-wide projects list.

CPRC members also received presentations from a safety and security consulting firm, a demographer, four architectural consultants, the Town of Bluffton, a playground equipment vendor, a furniture vendor and district staff.

After the CPRC identified $629 million in district-wide facilities needs, the Beaufort County Board of Education specified $344 million in projects for voters to consider in the November 2019 referendum.

Many of the remaining referendum projects will be completed during the summer months because they involve security improvements, schoolwide painting or HVAC upgrades, District Chief Operations Officer Robert Oetting said. The summer projects and accompanying school closures will be spread across the district, and across grade levels, to allow summer school programs to be operated in all areas of the county.

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