Decisions loom on John Kerr project

Posted: July 19, 2013

The Winchester Star

The city school board is considering options on replacing or renovating the 40-year-old John Kerr Elementary School. (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER — The city School Board will need to make some big decisions on the John Kerr Elementary School project by the fall.

Despite expectations that those decisions could come as early as this summer, Winchester Public Schools officials still believe the new facility is on course to be open by 2016, according to Executive Director Kevin McKew.

“We’re tracking on schedule for fall 2016,” he said.

Since 1987, officials have discussed the renovation and expansion of John Kerr, but no major capital project has ever been undertaken. Now, the 40-year-old building is in need of a new roof, heating and ventilation system, doors, windows, an electrical system and a fire pump.

Kerr is also overcrowded: Its capacity is 304, but in October it had an enrollment of 358.

In May, the School Board voted to accept an unsolicited proposal for conceptual phase consideration from Shockey P3 LLC in accordance with the Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act of 2002 (referred to as PPEA).

PPEA is one of two potential delivery methods for the John Kerr project. It is a design-build process that allows the board to contract with one entity for both design and construction services. PPEA allows for parts of the design phase to take place at the same time as construction and for a potentially earlier build. It also allows the private developer to buy the land as part of its construction package, instead of the board making a separate land acquisition.

The second delivery option for the project is a traditional design-bid-build process, which involves more than one entity designing and constructing the building.

From now until Aug. 21, the board will accept additional proposals through the PPEA process.

“We have a lot of interest,” Mc Kew said.

The big decisions on the project — whether to renovate the current school or build a new one, whether to build a 650-student school or a smaller one, and how to fit the costs of construction under City Council’s maximum allotment of $20 million — are unlikely to be resolved until the board reviews and chooses a proposal.

The board’s review process will likely run until November, but the board should choose between a PPEA delivery method or a traditional design-bid-build method sometime in September in order to stay on schedule, according to McKew.

“We can’t put off the decision too long or else we could delay the opening,” he said.

If the board decides to go with the PPEA method, McKew said it will probably select a development team by early December.

McKew said the $20 million authorized by council was something the board needed to work through.

“None of those options as envisioned now can be done for $20 million unless we alter the plan,” he said.

— Contact Rebecca Layne at rlayne@winchesterstar.com