Building material delays, rising costs causing issues for local school building projects

Backlogs in building materials and rising construction costs are causing havoc for area school districts constructing new buildings approved by taxpayers.

The projected completion of the new Franklin High School and renovation of the current high school into the new junior high school will be delayed by a few months to November 2023 or later due to a backlog in building supplies. And Huber Heights and Fairborn school officials said rising construction costs are increasing the total cost for their new buildings.

Superintendent Michael Sander recently gave the Franklin Board of Education an update on the construction project that is moving forward now that the former Franklin Junior High School on East Sixth Street has been demolished for the construction of the new high school facility.

“The facilities will open in January 2024, moving it back a semester,” Sander said. “Because of the (increasing) costs, we’re going to hold off on the junior high school renovation with a goal of placing it on an accelerated schedule.”

Sander said the school board will discuss and review possible adjustments for the project at its May 23 meeting. He said one possibility would be to adjust and accelerate the construction schedule for the junior high school by reducing it from five phases to three phases.

The original completion date to open the new high school was in fall 2023; and the junior high school in fall 2025.

The contractors still have to stick to the $66 million budget for the new high school, junior high school and bus garage because the district had already locked in their construction costs, he said. However, some alternatives planned in the project may have to be adjusted.

Sander said there is a backlog for steel that won’t be filled until November 2022 and costs for roofing and excavation have increased.

Franklin voters approved a bond issue for new school facilities in November 2020 by a margin of 60% to 40% to provide construction funding for four new buildings and the complete renovation of a fifth, which will convert the current high school on East Fourth Street into a new junior high school.

Because Franklin is participating in the Expedited Local Partnership Program, the state will pay 57% of the cost of the four new classroom buildings which required voters to approve the bond issue for the local share. The state funding for the new Gerke, Schenck and Hunter elementary buildings is expected to be released in 2027, according to district and state officials.

The local bond issue funding will cover the costs of a new high school with career tech, renovation of the existing high school for use as a middle school housing grades 6-8 and other site improvements, including a new roof.

It would also cover local initiatives such as constructing a new bus garage, moving the central office into the new high school building, installing gas and other utility lines, and the demolition of Hampton Bennett School for a new student parking lot.

Huber Heights has a big expansion project that hit a snag due to a sharp increase in projected costs.

The Huber Heights school board will re-evaluate its planned $7 million expansion project after an unanticipated rise in construction expenses caused the estimated cost to soar by around $1.6 million.

The board has a work-session scheduled for Tuesday to discuss on how to alter the project in order to fit the construction budget, according to Cassie Dietrich, district spokeswoman.

The district is working on building an addition to Wayne High School and smaller additions to its five elementary buildings, Dietrich said.

She said the sharp rise in projected cost stems from supply chain issues, much of which is a lasting effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and its strain on the global and national economy.

“Because of economics in the state of where we are as a country and globally, the construction costs of the project have increased,” she said. “Even from the time that we did all of our bidding out, which was in December, prices have already gone up for materials.”

Fairborn City Schools is also in the midst of a large building project and is getting ready to open its second primary school since 2020. District Treasurer/CFO Kevin Philo said after receiving an $82 million bid to construct a new high school in December 2021, inflation hit and increased the cost of the project by $5.3 million or 7% over.

“We did some value engineering and we’re delaying some stuff,” he said. “We hope to get those back before the building opens in August 2024.”

Philo said sometime this fall the board will take a look at the budget and figure out what can be brought back to the project. He said the district is constructing a building to last 50 to 100 years and they are committed to doing it right.

“Inflation is at the highest level in 40 years and school construction is not exempt,” Philo said.

However, not all school construction projects are experiencing any snags. West Carrollton is still building two schools on schedule without any delays reported, according to district officials.

Staff Writers Aimee Hancock and Eric Schwartzberg contributed to this report.

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