High school construction update

High school construction update
Posted on 06/18/2020
Front of Anacortes High School

The district is nearing final completion of the high school construction project, wrapping up a multi-year planning and construction effort that began with passage of a bond in 2015. The district has celebrated completed phases along the way, enduring construction delays and working through final details amidst COVID-19.


The project was officially completed in February 2020. Since that time, the district has been working through a punch list to ensure the highest quality in accordance with the design documents. 


Facilities upgrades from the 2015 bond include the successful re-roofing of two elementary schools, a major safety retrofit of all district buildings, a new Cap Sante High School and the construction of a metal multi-functional building on the middle school campus -- in lieu of spending equivalent dollars in offsite leasing for classes during the two years of construction. 


Unfortunately, the virus interrupted plans for an Open House in April. It is a beautiful facility -- from Seahawk Stadium, to the main classroom wing to the final addition of gym, auditorium, physical education classrooms, music classrooms and Career & Technical Education wing. This is a place where students truly have the potential to thrive, and the district will plan a community celebration in the future.


During the design phase in 2015, the school board developed guiding principles based on community feedback. They included 19 criteria covering safety, flexibility, quality learning, durability and community identity. A recent review found that all criteria had been met. This is a facility that will keep students safe, last for 40 to 50 years, and allow for adaptable teaching and learning. It’s an excellent investment in our community’s youth. 


The project has not been without its challenges with schedule and cost. Unforeseen conditions, weather and discrepancies between original “as built” drawings and actual conditions led to many delays. In one case, an estimated 300 tons of concrete from a previous school foundation in the 1940s had to be demolished and removed from directly under the school site. 


In addition, the booming construction environment in western Washington the last five years led to a shortage of subcontractors and limited bids for key parts of work. The district, general contractor and architect made extraordinary efforts to contain costs while still delivering the promised facilities. 


The overall construction costs for the project currently stand at $93 million, with the bond at $87 million, and the remaining $6 million coming from state matching funds, proceeds from interest and community donations.


The district took measures throughout the high school project to mitigate risk. The project budget included a significant ASD contingency of about $3 million. A district representative was on-site daily, inspecting every aspect of the work. And our district project management team carefully vetted all change orders.  


Despite these precautions, it became clear toward the end of the project that we would need additional resources.  Per the construction contract, some of the delays we experienced are the responsibility of the district, while others are the responsibility of the general contractor. At present, the overage for the district is about $300,000 -- or less than one-half percent of the total budget. 


A complicating factor is that one of the subcontractors has put forward a claim -- a “request for equitable adjustment” for almost $3 million -- that the general contractor and district are contesting. The district plans to stand strong in disputing inflated costs and claims, and the issue may take time to be resolved through mediation or legal action as needed. Final project costs will not be known until this claim is resolved.  


The district will continue to work on resolving these issues in the coming months, and the school board will take final action to bring the project to a close.  Despite these final financial challenges, the project remains a tremendous investment in our community and our children's future.

Kirk Pawlowski, AIA, a nationally-recognized school construction expert who led capital planning and development efforts at UW, WSU and OSU for more than 20 years, visited the new AHS earlier this year. He said it stood out among new high schools throughout the country for its functional performance and architectural inspiration. He called AHS “one of the best new high schools in the Pacific Northwest.”  


We appreciate the support of both staff and community during this major infrastructure project. Incoming superintendent Justin Irish has been fully briefed on the initiative and stands ready to take the helm to bring it to resolution. We’re excited to welcome students back to the completed facility once we finalize our “COVID Comeback Plan.” 


Questions? Contact the Superintendent's Office: 360-503-1211 or tramsay@asd103.org
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