With the 2019-2020 school year right around the corner, the Somerset School District is gearing up to start its capital improvement projects throughout the district campus.
Funds will come from the $28.6 million referendum that approved this spring.
“It was a very good victory. It was the largest referendum, at $28.6 million, that the district has had and it passed by a pretty great margin,” Superintendent Dr. Mark Bezek said. “Of all the referendums I’ve run, that has been the biggest spread.”
The capital campaign will address:
improving security and safety for students, staff and community;
aging infrastructure and deferred maintenance; and
updating district buildings to meet the needs of today’s learners and tomorrow’s workforce.
“We just had some more good news. There will be no tax impact on the $28.6 million. That is a big thing to emphasis. We were projecting a bond sale of, I think, of 4.25% and it came in at 2.6%,” Bezek said. “So there will be no tax increase on the bonding side, just on the levy portion of the million dollar levy.”
The million dollar levy, according to a column Bezek wrote prior to the spring election, will be a recurring in order to ensure the district “maintains our low class sizes, our excellent teachers and support staff, co-curricular activities, art and music, and to keep up with current and future curriculum and technology needs.”
He said without additional funding, there would have been reductions in those areas.
“The levy piece will just help us maintain our programming and make a few improvements here and there. And it will, obviously, help us transition our compensation model. We are going to a different compensation model,” Bezek said.
The district recently narrowed down its choices of construction management firms to oversee improvements, which Bezek hopes will start next spring.
“We started out with six, interviewed four and now have it down to two,” he said. “We had been thinking it would be a two summer project, but now we are looking at what it will take to have a one summer, one construction season,” Bezek said, adding that typical construction season for a school project runs from April to October, which means there will be some disruption in the buildings.
If the district is able to shorten the construction project to one season, that could contain costs. It would also mean only disrupting one session of summer school rather than two.
“And you have to keep in mind that we have to have a safe environment because we will still have kids and community people on campus,” Bezek said.
Until the decision is made as to whether the project will span one or two seasons, Bezek and his staff won’t be able to finalize decisions on the school year or summer school. “Then we can investigate if we need to get kids in or out early and change our schedule” Bezek said.
“For sure, we will not have the middle school and high school buildings during the summer, because those will be under the most construction. The elementary needs some entry work, some mechanical and a new roof, so if we can get that done we can basically run summer school over at the elementary school.”
Architects just finished up the core team meetings with each building where they talked about the general idea of what staff would like to see. “Now they will start meeting with the users and talk about what classrooms will look like,” Bezek said.
The first shovel should hit the dirt next spring.
“We are excited and grateful to the community for their support on this project. Our goal is to bring it in under budget and on schedule and make good choices for their investment,” Bezek said.