COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON - Doug Phillips, senior vice president of Plante Moran Cresa, presents an update on Three Rivers Community Schools’ bond project during Monday’s TRCS Board of Education meeting.

TR school board looks ahead to second phase of bond projects

Current market conditions could affect construction process of middle school academic wing

THREE RIVERS — As Three Rivers Community Schools starts to make its way toward Phase 2 of its bond project, the TRCS Board of Education got updates on the project during their meeting Monday.

Plante Moran Cresa Senior Vice President Doug Phillips and Senior Consultant Chris Mankowski gave a presentation to board members Monday giving a recap of how the first phase of the project has progressed and what to expect with the upcoming second and third phases. Plante Moran Cresa is the district’s owner representative with the project, and has been working with the district for two months.

With the second phase of the project, scheduled to begin construction in spring of 2023, Phillips and Mankowski mainly talked about the crown jewel of the entire project, the new middle school academic wing. They talked about how current market conditions, with inflation and after-effects from the COVID-19 pandemic, have affected prices and plans, saying the current plan of demolishing a big part of the current academic wing is currently “not going to be affordable” with the bond program.

Phillips said having to change plans like this isn’t unprecedented during this day and age.

“We are seeing this same problem happening across the state, across the market and across the country,” Phillips said, giving an example of another district going through roughly the same situation. “We’re currently working with Lakeview Schools in Battle Creek, and they had the same approach that they were going to demo a portion of the older building and build a big addition. We had to do the same thing. We went through the program, we identified that and ran the first budget and it was obvious that wasn’t going to be achievable.”

When asked about what the plan would be instead if they can’t demolish the larger portion they want, Phillips said while nothing is set in stone, there may likely be a lesser scale of demolition of the old academic wing moving forward.

“There will likely still be demolition within the building, but the amount will be less and therefore the amount of new space that gets created as opposed to renovating it will change,” Phillips said. “That’s where we talk about the phasing of the project. On a school project of this type, in the summer there’s a focus to create new space that is usable by fall for the students for instructional purposes. Then you identify and segment off a portion of the existing building that you now don’t need to use because you can take advantage of the new area, then you renovate that area and work like a puzzle.”

Phillips said the goal for the new academic wing is still to “create 21st century spaces that support the instructional model that the district is intending to utilize,” and that the design team is working on how to best work with those concepts with the new challenges presented. He said there would be an update in the next four to six weeks on how that aspect of the project will proceed.

“Once we get through this process, we’ll go back and re-test the budget, but currently we’re optimistic that we are on a track that will achieve the goals and fit the budget,” Phillips said.

Elsewhere in Phase 2 projects, Phillips said the new transportation building project off of Haines Road is nearing completion of its design, and is close to developing a budget. The new transportation building is expected to be constructed in spring of 2023. Three Rivers High School’s new music suite for choir and band is expected to begin planning this fall with construction sometime next year, while Armstrong Stadium renovation design is expected to begin in winter of 2023 with construction plans scheduled for 2024.

Looking back at Phase 1 of the project, which is projected to cost $11.6 million of the bond funds raised, Mankowski said they would try to push for completion of outstanding Phase 1 work by the end of this summer. That work includes masonry correction at Hoppin Elementary that will begin June 20 and the final completion of the high school’s new fitness center, which they hope to get done by June 13, the date when summer conditioning for fall sports begins.

“We are pushing Skillman and all the subcontractors to make sure we’re done and out of the high school as fast as possible so we don’t interfere with that June 13 date,” Mankowski said.

In addition, Mankowski said new flat panel displays for middle school classrooms have been ordered, and are looking to be installed this summer. He said those that have seen the displays have enjoyed them so far.

“It’s a very cool product, and we had some of our middle school design meetings in there, so it was exciting to use, see and touch,” Mankowski said.

However, one item in Phase 1 that got delayed was the new roof for the middle school building, pushing the project back to Phase 2 to coincide with the new middle school academic wing construction. Mankowski said the main reason it was pushed back was due to bid participation and overall cost, with Phillips noting there were only two bids submitted last winter and only one complete bid, which was around double what they estimated the cost to be.

“As a team, we felt the roof is in a condition where the work can be delayed until that project takes off,” Mankowski said.

“Roofing material supplies are extremely contained, all aspects of commercial roofing products, supply chains have issues caused by a wide range of things,” Phillips said.

Looking ahead to Phase 3, Phillips reviewed the scope of what’s to come: Site and HVAC improvements to the elementary schools, cafeteria, auditorium and physical education wing improvements at the middle school, HVAC improvements at the high school, and facility building and administration building improvements.

In other business…

  • The board heard a presentation from Three Rivers High School Esports advisor Joe Graber on the team’s first season of competition, noting that one of their Super Smash Brothers teams made the playoffs as the final seed in the 64-team tournament, and that academically, the club had a positive effect on student performance in the classroom.
  • The board approved the student handbooks for the Three Rivers Homeschool Partnership and transportation departments for the 2022-23 school year.
  • The board approved a resolution in support of the St. Joseph County ISD’s general fund budget for the 2022-23 fiscal year.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 22 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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