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PPS Evaluating School Renovation Options

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PPS Evaluating School Renovation Options
Posted on 02/18/2020
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City voters in 2017 approved a $64 million “Buildings for our Future” (BFOF) bond to renovate four of the city’s public elementary schools. Three years later, work on one school, Lyseth, is on track for completion next year. However, rising construction costs mean that the amount of money in the bond is no longer sufficient to renovate the four schools on the scale originally envisioned. The Lyseth project, currently underway, has been scaled back due to the cost constraints, and the district must now consider options for rebuilding the remaining three schools. 

The latest update regarding the four elementary schools included in the BFOF bond – Longfellow, Lyseth, Presumpscot and Reiche – was presented to the District Advisory Building Committee (DABC) at its Feb. 6 meeting. The presentation was given by staff of Harriman and Associates, the architectural and engineering firm chosen by the Portland Board of Public Education to lead the Lyseth project and design the three remaining schools.

Although construction cost increases were built into the initial projections of the four projects, the actual costs in today’s economy far exceed what was projected.

One example is Lyseth Elementary School, selected by the Board as the first of the four projects for completion. Construction work began last spring and is slated to be done by 2021. At the time of the bond passage, the projected cost to add a separate gym with a stage, a new library and upgrades to the school’s entrance and administrative space was $17 million. As of 2020, the cost to complete the work as originally planned would have been $23 million. That project has been scaled back to come close to the original amount.

At the Feb. 6 meeting, Harriman’s estimates from Preferred Construction Management showed that to complete all four schools to the scale envisioned at the time of the bond was approved would now cost $105 million – $41 million more than authorized. A scaled back estimate that is consistent with the adjustments that were made to the Lyseth School project would cost $85 million to renovate all four schools.

The School Board will have a workshop on these developments and discuss the available options at its meeting on Feb. 25. The Board will not take any action at that meeting, which is scheduled to start with an executive session at 6 p.m. at Casco Bay High School. The Board's business meeting will follow at 7 p.m. and the workshop will come after the close of the business meeting. The DABC is scheduled to meet again on Feb. 27 to review options for scaling back the three projects to meet the available funding.