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Statement from the Joint Construction Team Regarding the Costs of the New Mason Elementary School

What do you think about this folks?

he Facilities Plan adopted by the Richmond City School Board in December of 2017 including the following estimates for new school construction:

  • George Mason Elementary School: $25 million
  • E.S.H. Greene Elementary School: $35 million
  • New Middle School on Hull Street: $50 million

These estimates have been updated now that the procurement process for the design and construction of all three schools has concluded:

  • George Mason Elementary School: $36 million
  • E.S.H. Greene Elementary School: $42 million
  • New Middle School on Hull Street: $62 million

It is now clear the initial estimates, provided in 2017, under-represented the true cost of construction. Both RPS and the city had concerns this might be the case, which is why both entities discussed engaging a third party to evaluate the costs of rebuilding and/or renovating all RPS schools. The RPS administration brought this proposal to the school board on September 4, 2018 (see screen shot below). The cost of such an evaluation was initially estimated at $100,000, to be split evenly between the city and RPS. Upon further investigation, it was found the price would actually be closer to $200,000, or more. Given the higher cost, the school board decided not to proceed.

Not only were the initial cost estimates low, they also did not take into account the following:

  • Construction costs have increased significantly over the past two years.
  • The size of Greene Elementary School has been expanded from 650 students to 750 students.
  • Per the policy adopted by the Richmond City Council (Res. 2015-R8-15), all schools must be LEED Silver certified, which adds significant expense.
  • The current estimates include a 2% contingency, which if not necessary, will go unspent.

Background on the Joint Construction Team

After the passage of the meals tax last year, the City of Richmond and Richmond Public Schools agreed to develop a joint body, the Joint Construction Team (JCT), to manage the process of building new schools. This group includes the CAO, the mayor’s chief of staff, the superintendent, the RPS board chair and other representatives from each agency. The JCT meets weekly for one hour and only proceeds on key decisions when both parties agree. JCT representatives provide monthly updates to the school board and minutes from all JCT meetings are uploaded to RPS “Board Docs.”

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Kirsten Gray 03/29/2019 at 1:05 PM

An important read, letter from four school board members

I’m concerned how RPS Admin went straight to press instead of responding to school board and answering their questions. The new superintendent fails to see he works under school board and the majority of school board is failing to uphold their duties according to the Code of VA to oversee the superintendent, the building of schools (they punted it over to the city), and the fact that the majority of the school board voted to approve a budget the public had not seen. I thank the four school board members who wrote this letter and for calling for transparency.

Jason Roop 03/29/2019 at 3:19 PM

Kirsten Gray Also: they did not answer the questions submitted.

Eryn Cobb 03/29/2019 at 1:22 PM

Lord help us

SueWho 03/31/2019 at 10:30 AM

All I know is that the school board voted to spend a total of $575,000 on: a salary increase for a lobbyist to the General Assembly, a gala for teachers and staff, travel expenditures for observing best practices in teaching, and awards ceremonies and banquets for students. All this money could be used to: reimburse teachers for their out of pocket expenses on supplies and snacks, fixing leaking faucets that increase the district’s water bill (I won’t even address the HVAC issues), hiring more custodial staff, upgrades to technology being used,…

The actions of this school board show me that they cannot connect the dots when wanting to spend this amount of money on mostly frivolous things, then asking for more funding for schools. Now with the construction cost overruns that weren’t factored into the original budget, most residents will remain skeptical concerning the financial management of both the school board and the City Council.

This is certainly is a public relations nightmare caused by no one thinking proactively about the possible negative outcomes that these issues would create. The needs of RPS are wide and deep and have been so for decades, the causes for this are just as varied. Let’s hope that both the school board and Mayor’s office do a better job of managing funds properly to truly help our schools.


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