Bond Oversight Committee hears program update at quarterly meeting

Members of HISD’s Bond Oversight Committee met this week to review second quarter progress for the district’s $1.89 billion bond program.

Despite record rainfall over the past several months and a challenging construction market, the bond project team is making significant headway in the planning, design, and construction of new schools.

BOC1“We have a lot of work on our plate right now, more than at any other time in the history of HISD,” said Sundaresh Kamath, HISD construction officer. “The kind of progress we’re making in this hard bidding climate is a reflection of some great work by staff.”

The second quarter of 2015 saw several Group 1 projects, including Sterling High School and Delmar Fieldhouse, go vertical. Group 2 schools are continuing to move forward, with several expected to move into the construction documents phase – the last step before construction work begins – during the next quarter.

Also in the spring, design charrettes were held for all schools in Groups 3 and 4, and many have held or scheduled their first community meeting.

However, even with steady progress, the district is facing ongoing budget challenges as the construction cost per square foot continues to rise well beyond what was anticipated. As projects undergo scope-to-budget reviews, district staff remain committed to providing taxpayers with the best value for each project and delivering 21st century schools as promised.

“We are identifying strategic ways we can bring savings to the project and make cost-effective adjustments without compromising on quality or impacting core programs,” said Dan Bankhead, HISD’s general manager of facilities design. “We’re looking at things above the ceilings and behind the walls, looking at the materials we use. For example, concrete is now in such high demand, in some cases we’re finding that brick is actually a more cost-effective option.

BOC members asked questions about the impact of budget challenges on timing. They also discussed the equity among the projects and inquired if the Group 3 and 4 schools might be negatively impacted more than the earlier projects.

“Groups 3 and 4 have the exact same planning process along with cost-to-budget analysis,” said Sue Robertson, general manager of facilities planning.

Other second quarter bond program highlights include:

  • The DeBakey High School for Health Professions site was cleared, and drilling is in progress to make way for underground concrete piers to support the foundation of the new five-story building in the Texas Medical Center.
  • Mickey Leland College Preparatory Academy broke ground on its new $42.4 million school, which is being built on the site of the former Wheatley/E.O. Smith building. The all-boys school is scheduled to open during the first quarter of 2017.
  • Grady Middle School stakeholders saw their new construction go vertical and marked the occasion by signing a steel beam that will be used in the building. The new addition is expected to open in the first quarter of 2016.
  • Worthing High School stakeholders saw plenty of activity on the construction site as the new two-story classroom wing took shape and the brick facade was added. The new wing is expected to be finished in the first quarter of 2016.

“There’s a lot of good news to report,” said Leo Bobadilla, HISD’s chief operating officer. “As I get out there and visit sites every week, I’m excited to see the progress.”