Following the November 2015 approval of the half-cent sales tax for school capital improvements, the St. Johns County School District staff developed a plan to build three new schools (one elementary and two K-8 schools) to respond to the rapid growth of student enrollment in the county. In order to better respond to this growth, four additional classrooms were added to the elementary prototype and a third-story was added to a classroom wing of the K-8 prototype. The District believes that these additional classrooms will allow the new schools to better meet the needs of their communities and provide additional capacity to get ahead of our growth trend.
The goal was to begin construction quickly and open all three schools for the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year. District staff worked diligently with architects and engineers to refine the construction documents and finalize site plans. The District has evaluated the most recent school construction bid for new K-8 school “LL” which was opened on May 17, 2016. The District received only a single bid which is unprecedented in St. Johns County. This bid exceeded the construction budget for the project and represented inadequate competition among potential contractors. Awarding this bid is clearly not in the best interest of the District and community. The stewardship of resources provided by taxpayers is paramount and the District will not violate the trust of the community by inappropriately spending these funds in a way that exceeds acceptable limits.
As a result, the District has determined that the schedule and scope of construction for the two K-8 school projects should be revised. Due to several regional construction factors outside the control of the District, these two projects will be planned to start construction in the coming months with each K-8 to be opening for the 2018-2019 school year.
In order to better manage costs and maintain the budget, the scope of the K-8 projects will be revised to allow for a school size of approximately 1,000 students. The revised plans will also include a two story classroom wing as an alternate bid item to bring the school to the originally planned capacity of approximately 1,490 students. Depending on the availability of revenue, the two story wing will either be built as part of the original school construction beginning this summer or at a later date as an addition to the school. It is anticipated that the extension of time to complete the K-8 schools, along with the revised scope, will provide the opportunity for additional firms to participate in the bid process and ultimately result in a cost savings and the ability to bring these projects back into the planned budget.
Presently there is no plan to revise the schedule or scope of new elementary school “M” in the World Golf Village area. At its regular meeting on June 15th, the School Board awarded the construction bid to STG Contracting Group, Inc. Construction will begin immediately with the school opening for the 2017-2018 school year.
While circumstances in the construction industry will not allow the District to open all three schools in the fall of 2017, the District is committed to providing high-quality educational facilities for each and every student.