The Caesar Rodney school board unanimously approved the schematic designs for the renovation of W. Reily Brown Elementary School at its Jan. 20 meeting. Principal Jeff Davis said the renovation will give the building 31 classrooms, up from 28, with the possibly of four more.


    The Caesar Rodney school board unanimously approved the schematic designs for the renovation of W. Reily Brown Elementary School at its Jan. 20 meeting.

    Principal Jeff Davis said the renovation will give the building 31 classrooms, up from 28, with the possibly of four more.

    Tony Vassalotti, project manager from Buck Simpers Architect + Associates Inc., said the majority of the work will be done inside. The main offices will be moved to the front of the building for security reasons and the two-story library will become one story, which adds the three additional classrooms.

    Moving the office is necessary, he said, because “you have to actually penetrate the building to get to the main office and that’s not good for today’s security.”

    Architect Buck Simpers added this  is something they are doing now in all their school designs.

    The library, which will still have the same number of stacks or shelves, originally was to move out to the elementary school’s pod with an enclosed glass connector between the two buildings. Although that was the plan approved in October, costs played a factor in the redesign.

    “The cost of the connector and then the cost of renovating [the pod] just skewed the budget in such a way that we couldn’t get what we needed in the building,” said Superintendent Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald.

    It would have cost approximately $385,000, said Don Zook, the chief estimator for the construction management firm of Richard Y. Johnson and Son Inc.

    Simpers said they would go ahead and design the connector so it could be added in the future if necessary.

    “So we’re trying to give you a plan that not only works well now, but also thinks about … the future. It doesn’t block you into a corner,” he said.

    Zook reported to the board that preliminary estimates show they could get the connector and pod renovation if they decide not to purchase a new generator, sound system, lightning protection and canopies at the entrances.

    They are continuing to look at ways to save money in the design, he added.

    Preliminary estimates put the total cost at approximately $11.5 million without touching the pod or adding the connector. The district is eligible for $11.8 million, with $263,600 of that coming from local funds.

    “I’m not sure yet that we can’t get the connector and all these items,” Zook said, adding that it could be possible to build the connector, but not renovate the pod.

    “If we can get the connector on an alternate then we will look to turn that into classrooms. If not then the potential exists to use that as a separate building for professional development until the time where we can connect [it],” Fitzgerald said.

    Some other improvements include separating the car drop off from the bus drop off, handicap accessible bathrooms and elevator, geothermal heating and system upgrades to sprinklers and lighting, Vassalotti said.

    With the upgrades, the mechanical and electrical space needed is less, which will allow them to pick up a teacher workroom, he added.

    Board President David Henderson asked what the timeline was for the project, with the architects replying that it should take 14 months from shovel in the ground to finished project with an empty building for one school year. They are looking to put the project out to bid in March or April.

    Construction manager Richard Bailey of Richard Y. Johnson said it will be tight, but they can keep that timeline.

    “That’s the timeframe you need, so that’s when we’ll get it done,” he said.

In other business…

    According to former Gov. Ruth Ann Minner’s budget, both the W. Reily Brown Elementary and W.B. Simpson Elementary school renovations are scheduled to receive full funding, Fitzgerald reported.

    Allen Frear Elementary School’s renovation fund release was pushed back, he said, which was expected.

    There also was a recommendation in Minner’s budget for all-day kindergarten, and Fitzgerald said they hope to fully staff the renovated and expanded McIlvaine Early Childhood Center next school year.

    “Now we just have to wait until March to find out if Gov. [Jack] Markell concurs and leaves the schools in the bond bill and also  leaves the operating budget with the full-day kindergarten,” he said.

Email Jayne Gest at jayne.gest@doverpost.com