In November of 2018, a majority of District 207 voters approved a measure to borrow $195 million to improve safety, update infrastructures and improve learning environments at Maine East, Maine South and Maine West. In addition, the district indicated it would also utilize a portion of its reserve funds for the project that will bring the total project scope to $240.7 million.
On Monday, March 4, 2019, the Board of Education approved Pepper Construction as the construction management firm to oversee and manage all of the projects and upgrades. Along with district experts and the district’s architect Wight & Company, Pepper Construction Company joins the team that will help in the construction.
“Given the size and complexity of the project, the district sought to engage a construction manager at the start of the planning process,” says Mary Kalou, Assistant Superintendent for Business.
A request for proposals was published in the newspaper after the first of the year, as well as sent to 19 firms asking them to provide proposals. Due to the complexity and size of the project, there were six firms that submitted a response.
The district evaluated all six responses and selected four companies to be interviewed. A group comprised of district leadership, board members and principals then interviewed those four companies and asked the finalists to come in for a second round of interviews. Following that second round, Pepper Construction Company was recommended to the Board by the group. The Board approved Pepper Construction Company during its meeting. The firm will be paid $12.1 million for the work. The fee as a percentage of the project is fairly standard and was planned for as part of the planning related total costs.
“We believe strongly that bringing the construction management firm in at this stage of the project will help us find significant economic efficiencies for the entire scope of the project and that was a focus in our interview process,” says Superintendent Dr. Ken Wallace.
The district followed a similar approach to hiring the architect in 2016 to oversee the Master Facility Plan. Wight & Company architects were one of seven firms that applied two years ago for District 207’s Request for Qualifications. A committee, that included representation from the Board of Education, interviewed five firms and selected Wight & Company to complete the Master Facility Plan, given their extensive experience with comprehensive high schools in the area. Elara Engineering will serve as the engineers on the project working directly for Wight & Company.
The district is working on the Request for Proposal for Financial Advisor Services related to the issuing of bonds. It is anticipated that the Financial Advisor selection process will take at least until the end of March, with targeted Board of Education review in April or May.
Once the full team is assembled, a timeline for construction and staging will be developed. This timeline will incorporate the design process and strategies, as well as the construction phases. It will also include securing the needed permits and ensuring proper planning to accommodate students with disabilities during the construction phase.
The District is planning on tracking the construction progress with regular updates, information and photos on the District’s website and through other communication methods to ensure continuation of transparent communication. There will be a 12-18 month design phase that will precede construction. It is anticipated that work will begin in the spring of 2020.
Here is a draft of projected key dates:
Project Design Phase (February 2019 – end of 2019)
- The architect, construction manager and district team will have a series of meetings with each school, department and area. Preliminary designs will be shared and refined.
- The design will be broken into phases, likely with multiple projects at each school for each phase.
Construction and Upgrades (Early 2019-2022)
- Currently the district is working to complete the work by the end of the summer of 2022, however, that is an estimate and could be adjusted.
- It is highly likely that as soon as designs are complete work on the additions and secured entrances will begin.
- Phases are needed as there is too much construction and too many upgrades to complete in a short period of time. Much of the work will occur during the summer. However, there will be a need for some work to occur during the school year and this will involve major coordination from many areas.
It is important to note that the district will likely sell bonds at several times over the next few years. Bond funds must be used within three years of when they were borrowed, but given the long-term nature of the projects, that means the borrowing will likely be done in stages.
While recognizing there will likely be some school disruptions due to the work, the district is committed to minimizing those interruptions. This will include having work completed when school is not in session and when work must be completed during the school day, ensuring the plans are in place to minimize disruptions.
Maine Township District 207 voters approved the referendum with 27,671 (60.96%) yes votes, A simple majority was needed for approval.
In general terms, the funds will be used to:
- Improve safety and security by constructing new front entrances at each high school with secure vestibules to prevent visitors from entering the buildings before being cleared by school personnel.
- Replace outdated plumbing, electrical and mechanical systems to extend the useful life of the existing buildings; reduce costly emergency repairs; and improve energy efficiency within the district.
- Install new fire suppression systems at all three high schools.
- Relocate and renovate special education spaces for students.
- Update classrooms and labs at all three high schools to create flexible learning spaces that promote collaboration.