SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio — Following a work session held last week with architects, contractors and the district’s insurance carrier, the school board has been hashing out cost projections on the renovation of the fire-damaged Fernway Elementary building.
A decision could be reached Thursday at 6 p.m. during a special meeting in the upper cafeteria of Shaker Heights High School, after updated numbers were expected to arrive earlier this week for further crunching.
There were three proposals offered last week, and possibly a fourth that could be culled from various elements in those designs to keep costs in line.
“I kind of feel like I’m shopping for a house and I don’t know whether we can afford it,” Shaker school board member Bill Clawson noted at one point during the Sept. 25 work session. “We remain undefined on the budget at this point.”
The three designs presented included a rebuild of Fernway as it was before the July 10 fire, a full renovation that could stretch past the Aug. 1, 2019 preliminary deadline set to get the roughly 300 students back in the school, and a proposal vaguely referred to as “Fernway-light.”
“We’re not expecting one of these to be perfect — it will probably be a combination,” Van Aukin Akens architect Chris Dewey told the school board.
In the meantime, interior demolition has continued at the school, including the removal of asbestos from the building, which dates back to the 1920s, when the potentially hazardous silicate was used for insulation before being placed on a federal “restricted materials” list.
A temporary roof has also been installed, over which a permanent slate replacement can be installed at a projected cost of $1.7 million to $2.1 million, based on figures from the Gilbane Building Company.
Overall renovations were projected earlier by Gilbane at anywhere from $12.7 million up to $15.5 million, including some of the following breakdowns:
— An addition to the building, $1.8 million to $2.2 million, including the possibility of a new floor above the existing auditorium
— Interior renovations and reconfigurations, $1 million to $1.2 million, including compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and possibly adding square footage
— Exterior site improvements, $800,000 to $1.1 million, taking in parking lot options and moving the playground, whose current location is a distraction for other classrooms in session
— An elevator addition, $230,000-$280,000
— Filling in old coal chutes, $100,000-$150,000
Earlier figures from the school district’s insurance carrier placed the coverage for Fernway at “$11 million-plus,” including:
— $9.25 million for building damage
— $2.26 million for personal property
— $1 million for “extra” expenses
— Limited additional coverage for debris removal
“We’re looking at where the gap is (between cost estimates and insurance coverage),” Shaker school board president Jeffrey Isaacs said last week.
The insurance company, Argo Group, was set to pay the district another $1 million advance last week, bringing the total so far to nearly $3 million.
Van Aukin Akins Architects has already recommended moving all classrooms along the building’s exterior to allow more windows and grouping the three kindergarten rooms together, rather than on opposite ends of the building with one classroom upstairs.
There was also preliminary discussion of expanding the gym from 2,400 square feet to 3,500 square feet, as well as re-purposing the old auditorium stage into a into a cafeteria that seats 75 children.
Dewey noted that “just about everything will require some form of variance” from the city, where officials have also put in their recommendation for the school’s main entrance.
Also mentioned on Sept. 25 was the prospect of moving the completion date back to the beginning of 2020.
This could entail moving students back into the building after winter break in the 2019-20 school year, as well as the possibility of having workers finish up in the building after classes resumed at Fernway next August.
For at least the remainder of this school year, students are attending classes at three other elementaries in the district.
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