Plans for the reconstruction of Upper Arlington High School and related athletics facilities have been revised after previous designs came in $15 million over budget.
When work begins to rebuild the school in December, crews will construct a three-story building, not the four-story facility that had been in the plans.
In addition, Marv Moorehead Stadium will not be rebuilt to the south of its current location but instead will be reconstructed in its current footprint. The stadium’s existing turf field will be retained for the new stadium, existing light poles will be reused and the existing visitors stands will be kept.
District Chief Operating Officer Chris Potts said each of these steps is being taken to reduce costs so the project stays within $110 million.
“The budget is the budget, and we have no mechanism for being over budget,” Potts said. “So, we have to stick to what our budget is.”
Planned upgrades to the high school and five elementary buildings will be funded by a 5.17-mill bond issue that was part of Issue 43, which voters passed in November 2017.
The bond issue will generate about $230 million over 38 years, according to district officials.
A citizen-led group also is expected to seek to raise at least $5 million in private money to help pay for the projects.
Potts and Steve Turckes, a principal and K-12 global education leader with architectural firm Perkins + Will, shared the updated information during the first of two July 9 public meetings at UAHS. In addition to a 9 a.m. meeting, another is scheduled for 7 p.m.
They said design estimates for each of the six projects came in higher than the district had estimated, but added that is a common occurrence at this stage of large projects and that “value engineering” assessments are helping to reduce the scope and costs of the work.
Potts said a driving factor in the higher estimates was the discovery that ground elevations between Brandon and Mt. Holyoke roads vary by up to eight feet and substantial ground work to ready the sites for construction would add “millions of dollars” to the project.
As a result, the Upper Arlington Board of Education approved keeping the stadium in its existing location and reducing the height of the new high school.
“Doing that saved millions of dollars,” he said. “The turf has years left in its life, so we’re going to keep that intact. The visitors stands (and) a few light poles are the things that are going to remain in the stadium.
“Everything else will be brand new from the stadium’s perspective.”
By going from a four-story building to three stories, Turckes said, the district will be able to reduce costs but retain all academic spaces previously planned.
“We didn’t cheapen the building in any way. We didn’t reduce the quality,” Turckes said. “We have the exact same functions, but it saved money.”
Despite the changes, Potts said the high school’s front door will still face Zollinger Road, which he said provides better access for emergency response vehicles and personnel.
He said the district also will save about $12 million because it won’t be required to build new tornado shelters at the schools that, as required by recently approved state law, must be able to house everyone in each school building and withstand winds of up to 250 miles per hour for up to 48 hours.
Potts said the new requirements were not adequately communicated to school districts while they were being considered. He added state legislators have agreed to let districts such as Upper Arlington - which passed a bond issue for school upgrades before the new law was in place - build tornado shelters in accordance with prior state regulations.
As has been the case at prior community meetings, much of the discussion focused on plans for the high school.
However, Turckes briefed attendees at today’s morning meeting about updates to the elementary buildings before district officials and company representatives broke out to take individual questions and provide information about each building project.
Starting with Barrington Elementary, he said, academic space will be built at the rear of the existing building where playgrounds and athletics fields currently are situated.
“The addition is happening to the back side,” he said. “The pod buildings … are going to go away and get replaced with some outdoor play areas.
“We’re trying to keep away from the existing baseball field. So the building really follows the shape of the existing building and then connects back into it.”
Most of the existing Greensview Elementary will be razed.
Turckes said Greensview’s existing gymnasium would become a cafeteria and commons area, and a new gym would be built.
“It’s very important to the Greensview team that those academic spaces wrap around the media center,” he said. “The planning of Greensview is a little bit different.”
Tremont Elementary already has received two additions at the south end of the school in the past two years. Therefore, Turckes said, the new addition will be built at the school’s northwest end and will include new daycare and kindergarten spaces.
At Wickliffe Progressive Elementary, academic areas will “pinwheel” off the media center, Turckes said. He said exterior play spaces will be built, the existing play-space castle will remain and a new front door will be constructed along Wickliffe Road.
Windermere Elementary will be torn down and Windermere students will take classes in the Wickliffe building during construction.
“For one school year … we’re going to use the current Wickliffe school as a swing space,” Turckes said. “Wickliffe and Windermere are going to share a site for a year to keep kids out of trailers while the Windermere school is being built.”
Potts said the recent design changes have been incorporated and approved by the district.
He added it’s important that design phase for the projects can more forward without restarts or other delays.
“If we were to stop at time during the design phase, at the end of the day, ultimately, that’s going to cost us more money,” he said. “So, we have to keep this moving for the community.
“As we look at a timeline of everything we do, we’re anticipating finishing up the design element this fall on all six of our projects and entering into construction documents,” Potts said. “You will start to see things happening at our sites – all six sites at once – probably in late spring, early summer of ’19.”
About 60 people turned out for the July 9 morning meeting.
Among them was Stuart Boulton, a 1966 UAHS graduate, who said he hopes the district will incorporate more on-campus parking at the high school so nearby side streets aren’t clogged by student parking.
Currently, Potts said, the new high school is being designed to accommodate 500 on-campus vehicles, and planners are trying to push that number closer to 600. He noted that an underground garage, which Boulton favored, would be too expensive.
Aside from parking, Boulton said he is optimistic about the plans to reduce the high school from four stories to three.
“My first thought was it was a good idea,” Boulton said. “I wondered on four stories if fire trucks could go to four floors.”
Gretchen Zunic, orchestra director at UAHS and Jones Middle School, said she is happy to see the six projects progressing.
“Right now, I’m pretty happy with what I’m seeing,” she said. “I’m waiting for the next phase to see what’s coming next.”