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New building may be cheaper

Oak Harbor High School choir teacher Matt Carey was expecting to hear bad news Tuesday night at the Oak Harbor School Board workshop.

Several millions of dollars need to be cut from the upcoming high school renovation project budget. He was concerned the fieldhouse, which is planned to house the music and drama programs, would bear the brunt of the reductions.

Carey was pleasantly surprised to learn that the music program could have the same size space as originally planned but the programs will be housed in an all-new building rather than a renovated fieldhouse.

“I’m definitely encouraged by what I saw,” Carey said as he complimented the designers on the creativity they’re showing to resolve budget problems.

Early estimates show it’s cheaper to build a new building rather than renovate the fieldhouse and build a new auxiliary gym and classroom space.

Greg Stack, with NAC Architecture, the firm hired by the school district, said minimizing the renovation work on the gym and fieldhouse provides enough savings to pay for the new building. It will also save enough to put the renovation project under budget and provides some wiggle room should the bid for the project come in too high.

Stack said there would likely be a lot of unwanted surprises if workers undertake an extensive renovation of the fieldhouse and gymnasium. Those surprises could be costly.

He also pointed out it is cheaper to build a new career and technical building rather than remodel the current round-shaped, C and D wings.

The proposed two-story building would house a kitchen, commons area for lunch, stage with retractable bleachers, class space for music and drama, and additional classrooms that would go above the proposed new administration area.

The new building would be built at the front of the school adjacent to the fieldhouse.

“It gives a whole new fresh face to the campus,” said Gary Goltz, construction manager for the Oak Harbor School District.

The other bonus officials liked with the possible new building is that it places all of the areas that are commonly used by the public in one area of the campus. Currently, Parker Hall is placed in the middle of the school.

Work will still take place to improve the fieldhouse and gymnasium, but the extent of the work will be reduced.

School board members had concerns about the condition of the fieldhouse, specifically the floor’s condition and the amount of space available for the weight room and the NJROTC room. Both of those spaces are small and students need more room.

School district leaders have been looking at making reductions to the high school renovation for several weeks. They discovered in August that due to inflation, early estimates would put the renovation nearly $2 million over the $52 million construction budget. The high school budget is funded by a bond voters approved in May 2006.

Rather than making the minimum amount of cuts, officials are looking to make approximately $4.4 million worth of cuts. That way, they are prepared if the bid is too high.

During a Tuesday evening workshop, designers presented several options for the school board to consider. They ranged from making a list of small cuts to changing large parts of the renovation.

The school board members didn’t make any decisions during the workshop, but they were impressed with the idea of constructing a new building in the front of the school.

However, designing a new building will delay the completion of the high school renovation by several months. Instead of being complete in September 2010, it will be complete in January 2011.

The school board is expected to make a decision about changing the renovation during its Sept. 24 meeting. Superintendent Rick Schulte will also present a prioritized list of alternative cuts for the board to consider.

Plans for the renovation on A wing, B wing and construction of the new career and technical building will continue to move forward.

School board member Kathy Jones wants an updated projection on investment earnings that come from bonds and Corey Johnson wanted a one-page description of the costs and revenues associated with the renovation project.

The Sept. 24 meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Administrative Service Center, 350 S Oak Harbor St.

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