HOWE — The Howe Independent School District’s board of trustees interviewed architecture and construction firms Monday for the district’s potential bond project — a new intermediate school.
Over the course of the five-hour meeting, the board listened to 30-minute pitches from Corgan Architecture and WRA Architects, as well as those of Gallagher Construction Services, Lee Lewis Construction, Plyler Construction and Piazza Construction. And after asking questions related to budget adherence, operations and communication, the board members weighed the pros and cons of each applicant and chose Gallagher to build the school, pending the call of an election and voters’ approval.
“I think, primarily, it was because they have the experience as the construction manager agent,” Board President Greg Akins said, alluding to the district’s and board’s desired construction delivery method. “They did build our high school and I think everybody is pretty pleased with the way that turned out, and they do have the resources to bring in the subcontractors that we need to complete this project in the specified timeline.”
The construction management-agent delivery method is a fee-based service in which the assigned construction manager is responsible exclusively to the owner and acts in the owner’s interests throughout each stage of the project. School districts often bring architects and builders on board before a bond election is called so projects and cost estimates can be developed and relayed to the public as well as school boards, which have the final say in whether to call a bond election. Hired firms typically do not receive payment until after a bond is passed.
Howe Independent School District Superintendent Kevin Wilson said the driving force behind the potential bond package and the need to select both an architect and builder is campus crowding.
“Our elementary and middle school are at capacity,” Wilson said. “We’ve made some plans to add up to two classrooms at the elementary school next year, but based on our growth patterns and demographer’s report, we’re going to be out of space by the end of next year.”
The solution? A new intermediate school for students in grades 3-5, devised with the input of a community facilities team. Monday’s meeting yielded no firm plans on the look or layout of the school, but discussion by the board pointed toward a possible two-story structure that would replace the former intermediate school along North Denny Street, while still reflecting its history in some aesthetic manner.
Wilson said cost remains one of the biggest factors influencing the intermediate school project and, while the district plans to meet with its financial adviser next week, he said that it is too early to tell Monday what the total for the new school might be.
“We don’t have any specific numbers,” Wilson said. “We’re throwing around $15 to $20 million, but that’s very early at this stage, and I’m not ready to put a price tag on it yet.”
The superintendent did, however, say that he is ready to name an architect in the coming days and get students into a school that fits its and the district’s needs.
“Our goal next week will be to hire the architect,” Wilson said. “There will be a lot done in a short period of time, as far as planning, but I look forward to that process. I think it will be good for our community, and I think it will be a good opportunity for our kids to be in a new building.”