The Beaufort County Board of Education on Tuesday unanimously approved two contracts with Hite Associates to design two new Bluffton schools aimed at alleviating overcrowding.
The contract for the pre-kindergarten through eighth grade elementary school is for $1,172,917.
The contract for the nine through 12 high school is for $2,100,000.
"This is the first step," board chairman Bill Evans said. "Ever since we approved to build the new schools, we've talked about getting things done on a fast-paced and fast-tracked schedule."
The contracts were negotiated at 5 percent of the projected costs of the schools, superintendent Jeffrey Moss said.
Those costs are determined by looking at the enrollment capacity of the school and how much square footage is required per student. The average construction price per square foot is used to find the projected costs.
The projected cost for the elementary school -- to be built on Davis Road with a capacity of 1,400 students -- is $23,458,342. The school has a budget of $25 million, paid for with money set aside from a February bond issue.
The high school -- to be built in the New Riverside area with a capacity of 1,800 students -- has a projected cost of $42 million. Moss said that includes athletic fields for the school. The high school will be paid for with money the district is allowed to borrow without a referendum.
Moss said the 5 percent number is in line with or less than historical rates paid to architects for projects in the district. The fees paid to the architects are included in the amounts budgeted for the schools, he said.
Those architects will be in the county next week to visit the properties and meet with civil engineers to start site prepration, Moss said.
The district will create a committee to work with them on design features and capabilities for the schools. Moss said he hopes to have designs completed in March or April.
Evans said the contract approvals give the board confidence it will open the schools for the 2015-16 school year.
The board voted to begin contract talks with Hite to design the schools at its Nov. 5 meeting.
The North Carolina-based company emerged as the top choice at the end of a multilayered selection process and has designed dozens of schools, district spokesman Jim Foster said.
In other action, the school board
- accepted a donation of $7,172 from the Little Red Dog Foundation for M.C. Riley Elementary School
- accepted a donation of $1,000 from the Friends of Shanklin to Joseph S. Shanklin Elementary School
- approved the 2014 school board meeting schedule
- approved the annual external financial audit for the 2012-13 fiscal year completed by Webster Rodgers, LLP
- approved the 5-year enrollment expansion and financial plan for Riverview Charter School
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