Breaking News

Fort Smith School Board approves companies for building improvement projects expected to total at least  million

Fort Smith School Board approves companies for building improvement projects expected to total at least $29 million

FORT SMITH — Construction managers, architects and engineers have been selected for School District building improvement projects, which are expected to total more than $29 million and be completed by summer 2024, according to information from Monday’s meeting of the School Board.

The projects include expanding the cafeteria at Kimmons Middle School, additional classrooms at Morrison Elementary and Ramsey Middle schools, K-12 office spaces for the Fort Smith Virtual Academy and air quality improvement throughout the district. The improvements are paid for through Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief money.

The relief money is one of several funds approved by Congress in March 2020 for schools to address the impact of covid-19. It is separate from the $120 million for building improvements the district raised through a millage increase approved by voters in 2018.

In a presentation to School Board members in January, Shawn Shaffer, district supervisor of facilities, said the air quality projects are expected to cost $16 million to $19 million and include new ways to dilute, filter and disinfect the air. He said it will be an extensive process to determine everything the district needs to do, but they’ll look to fix the oldest equipment and the campuses with the most students first.

Shaffer said Darby Middle School and Cook Elementary School aren’t included because the millage project addressed 90%-95% of the air issues there, and Trusty Elementary School isn’t included because it will be addressed through the Morrison addition. The district has three years to finish the projects, which started in July, he said.

Shaffer said Kimmons has roughly 880 students using an about 2,800-square-foot cafeteria. He said the estimated $2 million addition would add 6,000 square feet, 50 tables and 400 seats to the cafeteria.

Shaffer said the Morrison project is estimated to cost $5 million and would add roughly 4,300 square feet for 10 classrooms to the northwest corner of the building. He said the classrooms would allow space for some students to move from Trusty.

“Currently at Morrison we have approximately 53,000 square feet, and Trusty has approximately 38,000 square feet. The current Morrison enrollment, approximately, is 246 students, and the Trusty enrollment is 260. The commons space at Morrison is able to handle the additional Trusty students. And when I talk about commons spaces — the media center, the music, PE and the cafeteria,” Shaffer said.

Shaffer said the roughly $1 million Ramsey classroom addition will add 4,700 square feet for four classrooms. He said it will allow the district to consider removing portable classrooms, based on future student population size.

For the Virtual Academy, Shaffer said those teachers are placed throughout the district’s buildings. He said he’s examining the district’s new Peak Innovation Center to see if there’s space to put K-8 online learning teachers together.

Shaffer said the project is projected at $1.2 million, with design plans still being made.

Shaffer presented a plan for the construction managers, architects and engineers on Monday, and also designated them for projects such as the community room and art spaces at the Peak Innovation Center and the Health Science academies at Mercy Hospital and Baptist Health, which are being paid for through private donations.

Shaffer said Martin Mahan, deputy superintendent; Charles Warren, chief financial officer; Tiffany Bone, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction; and himself evaluated construction manager candidates for the relief money projects.

“The companies that submitted for this project are Beshears Construction, Nabholz, C.R. Crawford Construction, Legacy Construction Management, Clark Contractors and Turn Key Construction Management,” Shaffer said. “And we are recommending that we need all of the construction managers at risk for this project, because we’ll be across 20 to 24 campuses, and based on capacity during the interviews — we talked to each one of them and some of them could do three, some of them could do five — and our expectation is we need a job site superintendent or a job site foreman on every project, and all projects will be running at the same time.”

A separate selection committee of Shaffer; Angie Stutsman, senior associate for Corgan interior design; Graham Sharum, the project manager for Childers Architect; and Drew Schott, project manager for the Procedeo Group, also recommended Nabholz as construction manager for the Peak Innovation Center community room.

The School Board approved both recommendations in a 6-0 vote.

“We’re talking a lot of money here,” School Board member Dalton Person said. “This is essentially a small millage for a large district. When we think about what we did with $120 million four years ago, when we’re talking generational change, we’re getting to do that but on a smaller scale right here. So I think this is really good stuff, so I appreciate your work on it.”