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|Board receives update on school projects|
Bids for the new $12-million Richwood Middle School are expected to be accepted by March, with construction beginning shortly thereafter.
During Tuesday's Ouachita Parish School Board meeting, representatives from Herbert Land Architect gave an update on their current design efforts. The local architect firm was selected to design the new middle school, which will house sixth, seventh and eighth grade students from Richwood.
Robert Manning with Herbert Land Architect told the school board the firm has completed design work of Richwood Middle School. It will now send those plans to the state fire marshal for review. Manning expects to have those plans back by the end of January, allowing the school board to advertise for bids in February. A contract could be awarded some time in March.
Construction will take 18 months, and Manning expects the new school will be ready to open some time in December 2010.
The new Sterlington Elementary School also is expected to open in 2010. It is expected to open before the Richwood school since construction of the Sterlington school is not expected to take as long to complete as construction of the new school in Richwood, according to Superintendent Dr. Bob Webber.
Both construction projects are being funded by a property tax extension approved by eastern Ouachita voters last year.
That property tax extension provided the school system with roughly $30 million for construction of the two new schools plus renovations at the other existing schools in eastern Ouachita.
However, because estimates to build both new schools came in about $3 million over budget for each school, the parish school system asked voters to extend its property tax a second time, to add one more year to the life of the tax. The second tax extension was approved by voters in July. It will generate approximately $9.2 million.
The Rev. John Russell, who represents the Richwood area on the school board, spoke briefly Tuesday about what he feels has been biased news coverage. He feels the Sterlington project has gotten more coverage in local media.
"I just want to make sure that we're not being put on the backburner, and that everybody was still aware we are in the process of doing what we promised," Russell said. "I've noticed that news media had covered the Sterlington school on several different occasions, but I haven't heard or seen anything about Richwood.
"The constituents in my area would like to see something and know that actions are in process," he said. "We certainly don't want the news media to forget about us."
According to Ken Slusher, school board safety and construction coordinator, the construction budget for the new middle school at Richwood is $12 million. However, the school system will not know the total cost until it receives bids on the project.
Manning told board members he is confident the Richwood Middle School project can be completed within budget.
Manning believes the school system will receive favorable bids because more contractors are looking for work, so the bids will be more competitive.
"The economy is suffering and we are seeing a lot of interest in bidding for projects, and with the number of bidders we're getting on projects, there's more competition, and that drives the cost down," Manning said. "Also, the price of materials has decreased."
"So we feel good about being on budget," he added.
Once completed, the Richwood Middle School will include 90,000 square feet of roofed space with 39 classrooms. The school will be located next to Richwood High School.