High bids force reconsideration of school project


Bids for renovating South Shore Elementary School are $4 million higher than the amount the school system has to spend on the project, forcing administrators to re-evaluate the plan.

Tonight, school board members will get their first look at their four choices: ask the County Council for more money and proceed with the renovation; call for a second round of bids; reduce the size of the project; demolish South Shore and replace it.

"Everybody's alarmed by this, but we're going back through the bids and finding out there's no market for reconstruction," said Greg Nourse, the school system's director of financial services. "And there's no part of the current bid package that we can do with the money available. No matter what we decide, you can't get around going to the council."

And, no matter what, South Shore Elementary students will attend classes at Annapolis Middle School for one or two years longer than originally planned.

"This is not fair. They were supposed to attend Annapolis Middle just this year and next year," said Karen Liston, vice president of the South Shore Elementary PTA. "We welcomed the fact that administrators came to talk with us, but their suggestions were unacceptable."

An ad hoc committee of school administrators, PTA members and members of the school's Citizens Area Council is trying to work out an acceptable solution, she said.

"South Shore needs to be the top priority on the construction list because our children are already displaced," Mrs. Liston said. "Parent involvement is down. Children's morale is down with the long bus ride. One of the alternatives, replacing the school, means they would stay there for another three years. That's unacceptable."

Rodell Phaire, director of planning and construction for the school system, said the Board of Education has about $6.2 million set aside for an addition and renovations that would make the South Shore building big enough for 400 students.

The project got a late start this spring when construction drawings had to be reworked after the school system fired an architect working on South Shore and Solley elementaries, which delayed the call for bids.

"Rebidding the project would take another 45 days, and there's no telling whether the prices would be higher or lower or the same," Mr. Phaire said.

Estimates put the cost of renovating and building an addition at $10.2 million, about $139,000 less than the cost of replacing the building.

The school board also is scheduled to take up the difficult issue of redistricting.

If the school board approves any new amendments for proposals not already discussed in public hearings, another public hearing will have to be scheduled, said Thomas Rhoades, director of management information services.

The school board meeting is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. at school system headquarters on Riva Road.

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