acs-schoolBy John Bernhardt

After seven years of false starts and frustrations, the Andes Central School Board is holding their breath hoping to break ground on a modular capital project addressing a civil rights ruling rendered against the District. The School Board hopes to break ground starting the construction cycle for a new handicapped accessible modular locker room facility with a handicapped public restroom. The new facility will be located directly behind the current gymnasium.

Although excitement is high, the ACS Board of Education understands the new addition does not completely erase the District’s responsibilities to the Federal Office of Civil Rights. To keep the project within the budget approved by District voters, the school board needed to remove three items cited on the Remediation plan worked out with the Office of Civil Rights. Those three items, plus the installation of smoke doors on stage in the gymnasium (a requirement added to the project by the State Education Department) and finishing repairs to the driveway behind the school including blacktopping will still need to be addressed.

The Board of Education is planning to go back to the voters asking District residents to increase the ceiling on the already approved project to address those points. Although at this point, the capital project extension has not been approved for a public vote, initial planning estimates indicate an extension of $319,701. Project areas with estimated costs are explained below.

  1. Previous Costs

Over seven years, of failed attempts to address the Civil Rights judgment, the District has incurred charges for architects fees, payment to a clerk of the works, required site testing and so on. Those charges total $128,536. Those charges have already been spent. The District has been granted permission by the State Education Department to claim those charges against the current capital project. Raising the ceiling on the project amounts to the District receiving additional aid of $25,707 dollars for already paid expenditures.

  1. Handicapped Lift

The remediation plan with the Civil Rights Office includes the purchase of a handicapped lift to move a student from the gymnasium floor to the stage. The lift was included in the current project at $17,486, but was removed to make budget. That amount would be included in a project extension.

  1. Playground Surface Replacement

Installing a new rubberized surface on the playground was also required by the Civil Right Office. That work was bid at $18,679 in the project and removed to make budget. That amount would be included in the project extension.

4,  Remodeled Entryway to Downstairs Computer Room

The final unresolved point of the remediation plan is the entranceway to the downstairs computer room. That entranceway must be removed to meet handicapped specifications. A $10,000 estimate has been included in the proposed project extension to address this change.

  1. Smoke Doors

After a long delay and much haggling, the District agreed to include the installation of smoke doors in the approved capital project. The smoke doors address an area in the building that was not included in the capital project planning and had never been required in any of the previously approved plans. The project extension includes $20,000 for the electrical changes and installation of the smoke doors.

  1. Finishing Site Repairs with Blacktopping

Building the new locker room facility will result in digging up the driveway behind the school. Original plans included costs for the repair and blacktopping of that area. Those charges, ($75,000 estimate) are also included in the project extension under consideration.

  1. Contingency Amount

The modular locker room addition is currently billed as a no change order project. Although construction vendors are committed to keeping costs within budget, the hard reality is that problems often arise. $50,000 of contingency dollars are included in the project extension to address such possibilities.

Combining the amounts in each category totals a $319,701 capital project extension. Whether part of a capital project or covered in the regular operating budget ACS must address the three unresolved points of the Civil Rights remediation plan as well as the installation of the smoke doors on the gymnasium stage. It also stands to reason, that the torn driveway will also need repairs. Costs for those items are estimated at $151,165 dollars. By extending the ceiling on the already approved capital project the District will receive an additional $30,000 of Building Aid they will forfeit if they complete the work as part of the regular operating budget. For those reasons it makes sense to increase the project ceiling.

The District proposes to tap several sources to finance the extension. It is proposed that $128,526 will be charged against the general fund. The District proposes to use their EXCEL aid allocation of $44,543 against project extension costs. The remaining $146,632 would be bonded. In extending the project, the district would realize on or about $60,000 of State Aid that would be used to offset the impact of the bonding schedule.

The Board of Education is committed to making facility upgrades to protect the integrity of our school facility. Our school is a local historical treasure, a central point of our community, a community landmark deserving of our pride.   ~