High steel and concrete prices are limiting the number of additional classrooms that will built for the McIlvaine Early Childhood Center renovation and expansion, Caesar Rodney school board members learned at the May 20 meeting.


    High steel and concrete prices are limiting the number of additional classrooms that will built for the McIlvaine Early Childhood Center renovation and expansion, Caesar Rodney school board members learned at the May 20 meeting.

    The architectural plans called for a maximum of 25 classrooms in the finished school. However, when the bids came in the board only could approve plans to complete 19 classrooms and partially finish two more to stay within the school’s $12.9 million budget.

    The construction itself will cost $9.5 million and use 17 different contractors.

    The partially finished classrooms would be built as shells with unfinished interiors. The district needs to find approximately $123,000 more to finish those rooms out.

    “At one time during the bid process we were very optimistic and we thought we could get it all,” Superintendent Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald told board members. “Unfortunately we were brought back down to reality as prices continue to go up.”

    The price of steel has gone up sharply over the past few months. The steel index shows that the price has increased from $90 a share at the beginning of April to nearly $110, according to an analysis of Market Vectors shares by E*TRADE financial. One year ago, the price was around $60 a share for the steel industry investment group. At the same time, the price indexes have gone up over the past month for concrete products and paving mixtures and blocks, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

    Fitzgerald said they are looking for additional funds to finish the last two classrooms because 21 classrooms will meet the space needs of the district. He noted the building plans also put in place the infrastructure that enables the district to add the other four classrooms at a later date.

    Don Zook of Richard Y. Johnson & Son, Inc., the project’s construction manager, said they are currently looking at the project’s design and management budget of $2.8 million to see if any money can be cut.

    Fitzgerald added that they are re-bidding the asbestos removal contract as well as working further with the architects to cut costs of money allocated elsewhere. He’s hopeful they can find the $123,000 necessary.

    “We’re optimistic,” he said. “We don’t have to come up with the money tomorrow, so that’s why we can be optimistic.”

    When board president David Henderson asked if that $123,000 price is locked in, Zook said no. He added  if the prices of materials continue to increase that number could go up. He also noted that the additional work to finish those two classrooms deals with 10 different contractors.

    In other business:
    • The board adopted three new high school courses, business finance and marketing, animal science III and human development, for the next school year.

    Assistant Superintendent Dr. Lou Ann Carlson said the courses were developed in response to a state requirement that career technical education courses need to be in a series of three.

    • Board members expressed concerns about line items that are over budget for the school year and asked questions about how the district has been handling energy costs.

    The items over budget are cleaning supplies, 16% over; substitutes, 10% over; and custodial substitutes, 2% over. Overall, the budget is only 77% expended.

    Henderson asked district officials to look closer at any ideas district personnel might have at how to save money. He had recently met a middle school teacher who had several ideas of how to save at electric costs, he said.

    “We’ve got a lot of smart people in the district and maybe we can set something up where we can get a lot of ideas in a lot of areas,” he said.

    Supervisor of Facilities Management Kevin Thompson said the district already is planning on joining the federally-backed ENERGY STAR program that promotes energy efficiency, as well as looking into buying renewable energy, getting more detailed information to principals on school budgets and possibly consolidating school summer operations into one building.