School board to select architects for new Bluffton schools

sbowman@beaufortgazette.comNovember 5, 2013 

The Beaufort County Board of Education will vote to select architects for two new schools to be built in greater Bluffton at tonight's board meeting.

The public meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in the Beaufort County Council Chambers at 100 Ribaut Rd. in Beaufort. The board will discuss school construction contractual matters in executive session before the meeting, according to the agenda.

Since the board decided to build a new pre-kindergarten through eighth grade elementary school and a nine through twelve high school at an Oct. 1 meeting, superintendent Jeffrey Moss has put together an aggressive schedule to get the schools built.

The school district received more than 30 proposals from architectural firms for the projects, said Robert Oetting, the district's facilities, planning and construction officer.

Moss, Oetting and chief operational services officer Phyllis White reviewed the proposals and selected a handful of architects for each school for interviews.

A selection committee of five people interviewed the architects last Wednesday and has selected an architect for each school that it will recommend to the board tonight.

Oetting said some of the firms that were interviewed were interested in designing both schools. He said that was something that would be considered in the committee's selection -- it could be easier to deal with one firm, but doing so could also factor in to speed, he said.

Moss said other things considered in the selection include historically how the firm has performed, if they bring projects in on time and on-budget, how much their buildings are costing the owner five to 10 years down the road and what their design will look like on the property.

The district already owns both sites for the schools. The elementary school will be on Davis Road with a capacity for 1,400 students. The high school will be in the New Riverside area with a capacity for 1,800 students.

The elementary school has a budget of $25 million, to be paid for with money set aside from a February bond issue. Moss said he expects the high school to cost between $35 million and $40 million to build. It will be paid for with money the district is allowed to borrow without a referendum.

Moss has said no tax increase will be needed to build the schools because the borrowing capacity the district needs to fund the construction already exists. However, a small tax increase might be required to operate the schools once they are built.

Moss said that once an architect is selected and approved by the board, another committee will be put together to discuss designs of the schools. He hopes this fast-paced schedule will allow the schools to open for the 2015-16 school year.

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