Board approves contractor for new Bluffton elementary school

sbowman@beaufortgazette.comFebruary 5, 2014 

The Beaufort County School District is setting an unprecedented pace with its timeline for building two new Bluffton schools, school board chairman Bill Evans said.

The school board made another big stride in the process Tuesday night, when it approved the selection of a contractor to build the new prekindergarten through eighth grade elementary school on Davis Road.

The district now will begin contract negotiations with Sumter-based Thompson Turner Construction, a company that has worked on several Beaufort schools' projects in the past.

"I am pleased we can find a South Carolina company, and one that we have done a fair bit of work with before and they have done good work for us," Evans said. "They also are good at hiring a lot of local tradespeople to complete the work."

Thompson Turner's previous work includes the construction of Bluffton Middle School in 2009, both the Bluffton and M.C. Riley early childhood centers in 2010, as well as some physical-education additions at Broad River and Mossy Oaks elementary schools in 2010.

The construction company was one of eight competing for the contract, according to district spokesman Jim Foster. A separate process to select a contractor for the high school in the New Riverside area will begin soon.

Work on the elementary school -- to be near the intersection of Bluffton Parkway and S.C. 170 -- is slightly ahead of plans for the high school, superintendent Jeffrey Moss has said. The district's priority is to make sure the elementary school is ready to open for the start of the 2015-16 school year, he said.

The school district has budgeted $25 million for the elementary school, paid for with money from a past bond issue. That amount includes a roughly $1.2 million architecture contract with North Carolina-based Hite Associates.

Negotiations with the contractor are not yet finalized, but chief operational services officer Phyllis White said construction estimates are in line with the project's budget.

For the elementary school, the district is in the second phase of the design process, Foster said.

  • Phase one is creating general schematics of the buildings.
  • Phase two is design development and permitting.
  • Phase three is crafting blueprints for construction.
The district has put together a committee of district officials and teachers, who have been working with the architects on design elements they feel are important for the schools.

Moss has said the district is considering the curriculum and academic programs in the designs of the schools. He said he also wants to incorporate flexible spaces that can be multipurpose and allow for collaboration.

Foster said the district expects to complete the permitting process in March. It then will finalize design plans and break ground in May so it can open the elementary school Aug. 15, 2015, Foster said.

"We're making great progress with this project," Moss said. "Our team is working hard to stay on schedule and on budget."

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