Contract awarded for new school

Published 9:33 pm Monday, January 14, 2013

Suffolk’s School Board has awarded a construction contract for a new elementary school on Pioneer Road.

At a meeting last week, board members voted unanimously to award the contract to Norfolk-headquartered Blueridge General, the company that built Creekside and Hillpoint elementary schools.

Seven firms had placed bids, one from Elizabeth City, one from Richmond, one from Kenbridge and the others from Hampton Roads.

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Some items in the contract were changed or eliminated to meet the district’s budget, district Purchasing Manager Susan Redmon wrote in an email.

Blueridge’s original bid, $14,435,000, was negotiated down to not exceed $14,068,675.

“We ‘value engineered’ some items out of the contract in order to get within our budget and have made some substitutes and modifications on other items,” Redmon wrote. “The building plan did not change significantly.”

The new school is intended to replace Southwestern and the shuttered Robertson elementary schools.

Plans are progressing after a lengthy period of indecision and delays. The main contention was how many schools to build, and the poor economy led to a one-school model.

The Planning Commission approved the 100 Pioneer Road site in early December 2011, and the purchase — 47 acres for $564,000 — was finalized in July.

Before last week, the board’s last item of business on the new school was the awarding of a contract for early site work, which went to Newport News’ Wolf Contractors.

Blueridge’s was the lowest construction bid, last Thursday’s meeting heard. “We are getting quality work,” board Chairman Michael Debranski commented, noting that the firm’s familiarity with the district’s needs after Creekside and Hillpoint should minimize change orders.

“We are definitely excited about working again with them.”

According to an earlier project update to the board by RRMM Architects Chief Executive Officer Duane M. Harver, the 700-pupil school will incorporate pre-K, kindergarten and first and second grades on the first floor, and third, fourth and fifth grades on the second floor. Special education classrooms would be on both levels.

Plans call for learning nooks on the eastern and western ends of both levels, a media center open between both levels, and adjoining gymnasium and lunchroom, which would open into a single space.

The school’s front entrance will face Pioneer Road, and cars and buses will have separate entrances.

Outside, the school will include 70 parking spaces, an area for future additional spaces, and overflow parking; hard-surface, first- to fifth-grade and pre-school play areas; a space for field games; and soccer and softball fields.

The design is modeled on Hillpoint, but with fewer classrooms.

Meanwhile, School Board members last week also voted unanimously to re-allocate $1 million from the 2013-14 capital improvement budget, which had been earmarked for renovations when the board moves to the city’s current human resources building, to buy furniture and equipment for the new elementary school.