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Architects, task force assessing SPS buildings

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Several buildings in the Springfield Public Schools district may undergo physical changes after its board reviewed an architectural study covering renovation and reconstruction costs earlier this month.

Presented by H Design Group LLC, Hollis & Miller Architects, Dake Wells Architecture Inc. and Buxton Kubik Dodd Design Collective, the study showcases potential improvements for 18 facilities given low-condition scores in a 2017 report by Florida-based consultant MGT of America Inc.

The largest project proposal outlines a $41.5 million new-build replacement for Jarrett Middle School, while the smallest proposal is a $1.3 million renovation of Watkins Elementary School. Another $12.7 million project would create an early childhood center in the southwest region adjacent to Carver Middle School.

The board has not made any decisions on the projects, school officials said. Study materials will be weighed by the Community Task Force on Facilities that was created by the board in May. SPS spokeswoman Teresa Bledsoe said the task force is scheduled to present the board its recommendations in the fall.

“That will be the focus of their work for the next few meetings,” Bledsoe said. “At this point, none of these [projects] are prioritized.”

The Community Task Force on Facilities is made up of 29 appointees, co-chaired by Bridget Dierks of Community Foundation of the Ozarks Inc. and David Hall of Missouri State University.

“The first question is do we have to close any schools,” Hall said, referring to Bowerman and York elementary schools, which have been considered sites for closure. “Next, we’ll go project by project and select what’s the best option.”

The final step will be to prioritize each project by high, moderate or low need.

“It’s amazing how many are in that high priority. It makes it challenging,” said Hall, who works as university emergency manager for MSU.

Once recommendations are received, the district will have an open bid selection process for the construction work.

“I’m an optimist, so I want us to be done with all of our work by the end of September. That is my hope,” Hall said of the task force’s timeline. “If we have to extend, we will, but that’s what we’re shooting for.”

The architectural study details costs for both renovation and reconstruction for some facilities. For instance, renovation of Bissett Elementary School would cost roughly $12.9 million, while new construction would cost $20.6 million.

Bledsoe stressed the board would not act on each proposal.

“They’ll look at potential for a bond issue in the future,” Hall said of the board’s project funding options.

The board is coming off of a year when Springfield voters rejected a $189 million bond issue for school facility improvements. The April 2017 bond proposal garnered 51 percent of the vote but fell short of the 57 percent super majority required under Missouri law governing bond elections.

Hall said the task force would give a more in-depth review of school building conditions and improvements than the process prior to the recent bond proposal.

A Child Care Development Fund Grant is available through the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Missouri Department of Social Services for early childhood care funding up to $20,000 per site or $40,000 per district, according to the DESE website. State funding is limited to one award per funding year.

The study covered 17 current facilities and a proposed new building, dubbed Southwest Region in the study, next to Carver Middle School.

Based on a “condition and suitability” scoring system of zero to 100 by MGT of America, the study showed 14 of the facilities scored under a 70. The study indicated architectural drawings and construction pricing are intended to raise the scores to over 90 percent.

The lowest scored facility was Pipkin Middle School with a 52; the highest score in the study was Watkins Elementary School with a 77.

Bledsoe said the district used a qualifications-based selection process to determine the four firms to conduct the study.

“Even though we all had specific focuses, we were working collaboratively. It was packaged as a single product,” said Jason Hainline, a project manager at Dake Wells Architecture. “The process was great. The teams enjoyed not only the effort but the collaboration [and] from that perspective it was a successful process. We provided the district with information to make considerations for what’s in their best interest.”

The firms were only contracted to perform the initial study, Bledsoe said.

Eight schools – Bingham, Bowerman, Glendale, Hillcrest, Jarrett, Pleasant View, Reed and York – may decrease their capacity due to enrollment changes across the school system, Hall said.

“Certainly, as we look, we’re trying to match up with what our enrollment trends will be in the future,” Hall said.

The task force was scheduled to hold its first meeting Aug. 23.

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