Westerville City Schools: New elementary nearly under roof; South project progressing

Marla K. Kuhlman
ThisWeek group
Rigoberto Herrea with Anderson Decorating paints the hallway outside a room that is to become a new engineering space as part of construction on the Westerville South High School Phase 2 project May 10.

Westerville City Schools' newest elementary school at Minerva Park, near Hawthorne Elementary School, is scheduled to be under roof by the end of May.

Bids also are set to open in late June for the new middle school that’s also in Minerva Park.

Scott Dorne, the district's assistant superintendent, operations, said the new elementary is on schedule, with its opening in August 2022.

“They finished installing roof joints, and this month we look to see the roof come on,” he said. “That’s the target for this month. The building isn’t needed until August of next year, and we feel good about that project.”

Greg Viebranz, executive director of communications and family engagement, said it seems simple to express excitement about getting a roof on a building, but it’s very meaningful.

“It’s a significant milestone to get a roof on because you don’t have to worry about the elements for inside work," he said.

Work is progressing on Westerville City Schools’ newest elementary at Minerva Park. It’s scheduled to open in August 2022.

The new elementary school is made possible because Westerville voters approved a combined 1.95-mill bond issue and a 5.9-mill operating levy Nov. 5, 2019. 

The bond issue also will provide funds for a new middle school, safety and security updates districtwide, renovations and additions at Annehurst and Whittier elementary schools, renovations at Hawthorne and facilities-assessment needs at Hanby, Emerson and Longfellow elementary schools.

Dorne said the district recently released construction documents for the new middle school that’s scheduled to open in August 2023.

“We’re excited about finishing all those documents and looking forward to the implementation of them,” he said.

One area of concern over the past year is the skyrocketing cost of building materials.

"The volatility of pricing and the availability materials, along with labor availability, are always of concern, both with current and future projects," Dorne said. "With our current projects, our concern is with the supply of building materials, specifically, HVAC units. Recently, one of our contractors indicated that windows are now delayed due to steel hinge issues.

"For future projects, we are hopeful that pricing will stabilize," he said. "Overall, for this five-year facility master-plan project list, we have had some early successes in bidding with our current projects. Our goal now is to manage pricing changes for the remaining projects and find balance overall."

Dorne said he expects bids to open in late June for the middle school, with action to be taken for a general contractor at the July 9 board meeting.

The Annehurst addition has roof decking on so work could get started on other areas, he added.

“We’re very happy with Robertson (Construction Services Inc.) at the new elementary and Annehurst project,” Dorne said.

The bond portion of the district's combined bond-levy also is financing work that will be done to move an office and classroom to provide secure entries at Cherrington, Hanby, Huber Ridge, Mark Twain and Robert Frost elementary schools, according to Viebranz.

Dorne said South High School’s Phase 2 renovation of the first-floor north academic wing is underway, with drywall being installed and painted this month, followed by flooring in June.

“As soon as school's out, we’ll start on renovations to the café,” he said.

Bids recently went out for Phase 3 of South’s project that includes renovation of the second-floor south academic wing to be mostly completed by December 2021.

Jody Runyon with Enertech Electrical Inc. bends a piece of conduit in a former vehicle bay as part of construction on the Westerville South High School Phase 2 project May 10. According to Scott Dorne, Westerville City Schools' assistant superintendent, operations, the space will become an art room, and the garage door will remain.

The entire South project includes six phases, with a total cost of about $38 million, Dorne said

He said South’s renovation and addition project are being funded by a 2009 permanent-improvements levy through a certificates-of-participation program.

According to investopedia.com, a certificate of participation is a type of financing in which an investor purchases a share of the lease revenues of a program rather than the bond being secured by those revenues. As opposed to bond participation, the certificates pay investors via lease revenues instead of bond interest.

Viebranz said the district is close to the season for doing capital-improvement projects to maintain investments over the summer, with routine maintenance, roofing and parking lots that are funded by the permanent capital-improvements levy approved by voters in May 2009.

Dorne said the normal capital program includes an HVAC project reaching six buildings.

“We have different components in each building, including a rooftop unit at North,” he said. “We have some electric work at Walnut Springs (Middle School). One thing we’re doing now is looking at older buildings and having engineers doing assessments. We do this every five years to make sure nothing is creeping up on us.”

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla