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District Moving Forward with New Sunset Park and Franklin Projects

With voter-approved bond money originally earmarked for building and infrastructure improvements, Pueblo School District 60 will build new structures to replace the aging Sunset Park Elementary School and Franklin School of Innovation.Sunset Park and Franklin Principals meet with Bob Lawson to talk about the BEST Grant Awards

The difference is $30 million in Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grants successfully applied for by the district.

And with the selection of an architect for the school replacement projects, the district is on its way to eventually see a total of four new schools, including new East and Centennial high schools, constructed with funds from the $218 million bond approved by voters in 2019.

The D60 board of education recently heard an update on the replacement of Sunset Park and Franklin School of Innovation from Bob Lawson, executive director of facilities and construction management.

In his report, Mr. Lawson told the board that the district has moved forward with a widely used method for the delivery of the two elementary schools called Construction Manager/General Contractor (CMGC.)

“The CMGC project delivery method is presently used by most state government agencies, the university system and school districts across the state,” Mr. Lawson explained. “As government entities typically work with fixed budgets for funding, the CMGC delivery method provides the district with a fixed project cost during the design phase.

“The architect and contractor are partnered together in order to provide the school district with a guaranteed maximum price for the projects, without the risk of bids exceeding funding available and also minimizing the risk of change orders due to errors in the design documents.”

In early October, the district began the projects’ solicitation process by advertising for architectural and engineering services, as well as the CMGC contractor for the design phase of the two new schools. 

“The solicitations were qualifications and cost proposal based procurement methods that were reviewed by a diverse selection committee, made up of district staff, the school principals, and board members,” Mr. Lawson said. 

The committee members for the selection process were Bob Lawson, Principals John Hull (Sunset Park) and Dana DiTomaso-Junkman (Franklin School of Innovation), Executive Director of Continuous Improvement and Innovation Ted Johnson, Chief Financial Officer David Horner, purchasing officer Tina Branom, bond project manager Jon Ducic, and board members Barb Clementi (architect) and Tommy Farrell (contractor.)

For the architectural services, a single design firm contract is planned, as a prototype design will be employed for both schools. In all, 11 proposals were received from some of the state’s top design firms. These proposals were first evaluated by the selection committee members, with the top four candidate firms, Anderson Mason Dale; the Cunningham Group; Hord Coplan Macht; and RTA/MOA Architects, progressing to the interview stage.

“Upon the completion of the interviews, the committee evaluated the design firm’s presentations and recommended RTA/MOA Architects for the new schools design contract award,” Mr. Lawson told the board.

The CMGC contractor designation also proved to be highly desirable, with the district receiving 10 proposals from what Mr. Lawson termed “some of the very best contractors in Colorado.”

The top five firms were identified by the selection committee for interviews, with the committee’s recommendation to be brought before the board on Dec. 8.

“Upon the completion and execution of the Colorado Department of Education BEST Grant award contracts in December, and with board approval of the design firm contract award, the district will begin work on the design of the two new elementary schools in January 2021,” Mr. Lawson told the board.

In response to a question from board member Judge Dennis Maes, Mr. Lawson said the pandemic has not significantly curtailed the bond project.

“It’s made it challenging, but it hasn’t slowed us down,” Mr. Lawson said, adding that a number of virtual meetings have enabled the process to continue without interruption. Construction documents for the new East and Centennial are expected to be wrapped up by late January, giving the district a clearer picture of the project’s costs.

As for the rest of the improvement and renovation projects funded by the bond, “We’re at about 90 percent on mark,” Mr. Lawson said, adding that every Phase One project, with the exception of one, is underway.

Door hardware is being replaced, electrical work is underway, and in the case of South High School and Pueblo Academy of Arts, new HVAC systems are forthcoming: an improvement that will, for the first time, bring air conditioning to those schools.

“And as a caveat, I’d like to add that we are well under budget on those projects as well,” Mr. Lawson added.

Board member Barb Clementi praised Tina Branom, along with Mr. Lawson and Mr. Horner, for their efforts in moving the BEST grant-funded new construction projects forward.

“Tina Branom is definitely one of the unsung heroes in this,” Mr. Lawson said. 

“She does a tremendous amount of work,” added Superintendent Charlotte Macaluso. “So I appreciate the affirmations for Tina.”