School additions to be rebid after estimates increase

Move means classrooms may not be ready by fall

May 14, 1999|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

In the face of ballooning cost estimates, Baltimore County school officials have decided to rebid additions at two of their most crowded elementary schools -- a move that could delay the projects as much as six months.

"This is very disappointing," said Beth Strauss, principal of Deer Park Elementary School. "We were hoping to have the addition ready by the start of school. But we'll make do as we always do."

The decision to seek new bids on the additions at Deer Park and Hebbville elementaries occurs a month after school officials received estimates for the projects that were $450,000 more than what had been budgeted.

School officials plan to build a four-classroom addition at Deer Park and a six-classroom addition at Hebbville, said schools spokesman Charles Herndon.

Hebbville -- with a capacity of 422 pupils -- has an enrollment of 557 pupils this year and is projected to grow to 599 pupils by 2004. Deer Park has a capacity of 444 pupils, and about 570 are enrolled there this year. Enrollment at Deer Park is expected to grow to 787 pupils by 2004, though much of the increase will be relieved by an elementary school to be built during the next few years in Owings Mills.

A year ago, county and school officials approved more than $2 million for the pair of additions. At the time, officials said the additions would be ready in January 1999. As recently as last month, school officials expected the additions to open by the beginning of the 1999-2000 school year.

But officials were forced to rethink the project after the lowest bid for the additions, which have been put out to bid as a single project, came in so far over budget, Herndon said.

School officials have put the project out for new bids, expected to be received by June 3. The school board -- which has approved money for a construction manager to oversee building the additions -- would be scheduled to vote on the project at its meeting June 15, Herndon said.

To try to reduce costs, contractors bidding for the projects would be permitted to construct a modular addition using pre-built parts, as had been originally planned, or an addition from the ground up. Some of the design also has been changed, though the classrooms will remain the same, Herndon said.

The additions might be completed in the fall if the winning contractor chooses to build modular versions, but they might not be done until February if the winning contractor builds additions from scratch, Herndon said.

School officials considered asking the county to move money from another budget to cover the increased costs but rejected the idea, Herndon said.

Parents said yesterday they would have preferred going ahead with the higher bids, spending the extra money to get the additions completed sooner -- particularly because it isn't guaranteed that the new bids will come in under budget.

"I think it's not a very good solution," said Lisa Cohen, PTA president at Deer Park. "We needed something more immediate, like transferring the money from another budget and then building the additions right away.

"We're right back where we started. And what happens if they come in over budget again?"

Pub Date: 5/14/99

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