City Buys More Land For 2nd High School

By LAINE GRIFFIN
Daily News-Record  9/26/19
 
HARRISONBURG — City Council unanimously approved purchasing additional land for a second Harrisonburg high school at Tuesday’s meeting, which is in the works to open for the 2022 academic year.
Voting in favor were Mayor Deanna Reed and Councilmen Sal Romero, Chris Jones and Richard Baugh. George Hirschmann was not present.
The cost of the 0.75 acres, which is located east of South Main Street abutting Boxwood Court, will cost $150,000, with around $3,000 in closing costs.
Harrisonburg Director of Communications Michael Parks said city staff will move forward with closing the deal in the next two to three weeks.
“With this piece of property, what this allows us to do is really have a good access to the northern side of the campus,” City Attorney Chris Brown said at the meeting. “The road can now come through and onto the piece of property and then hook up with Boxwood Court and will minimize the
effect on some of the other neighboring properties on South Main Street.”
City representatives purchased 60 acres of land for $5 million for the second Harrisonburg high school on Aug. 23, 2018. It is located between South Main Street and Interstate 81.
The $5 million did not include the additional $25,000 in closing costs or the construction, which was estimated at $76 million at the time.
That number jumped to $85.6 million after representatives from Grim & Parker Architects presented updated cost projections to the School Board at a Jan. 7 work session meeting.
“We hadn’t come up with a design for the high school at that point in January,” Harrisonburg City School Board Chairwoman Deb Fitzgerald said in an interview Wednesday. “[Grim & Parker Architects] had just taken a high school design that they thought we would want to get a price tag associated with the project.”
But now the design is expected to be finalized by the School Board in the coming months, along with a new estimated cost.
At the School Board’s Sept. 17 work session, Nielsen Builders Inc. and Grim & Parker Architects presented the board with designs for the interior and exterior of the school.
Earlier in September, the companies sat down with teachers to figure out the specifics of the interior of classrooms.
“They got the specifics on how many desks would be in classrooms, where cabinets would go and where the projector would face,” Fitzgerald said.
At the Oct. 1 School Board meeting, the board is expected to accept the final design proposal, which is what was presented at the work session.
Fitzgerald said there will most likely be amendments that will be proposed and accepted with the final design proposal.
She said the design committee, which includes Jones and School Board members Obie Hill and Nick Swayne, has not recommended any cuts be made to the design.
If the School Board makes any amendments to the design, following the vote, Nielsen Builders Inc. will make the changes and come back to the board at its Nov. 5 meeting with the final design and guaranteed maximum price.
“We have fuzzy incomplete numbers on costs that are still being farmed out to subcontractors to get the remaining blanks filled in,” Fitzgerald said. “We are still working on getting pricing from heating, electricity and raw materials — all the stuff that goes into the building.”
Since the City Council approved the School Board and Nielsen Builders Inc. to enter into an interim agreement in May, which came with a $3.3 million price tag, the designs have been made with the idea the school will open in 2022, although the city’s most recent vote on Jan. 23, 2018, was to open in 2023.
Once the School Board votes in favor of the design and guaranteed maximum price for the school to be opened in 2022, it will be passed along to council for a vote.
In reference to changing the school’s opening date, Parks said council has a number of ways to “replace or change a past vote.”