Just over a year ago, the voters of this community approved an historic bond proposal for Lawton Public Schools. Since that election, we have begun or completed no fewer than 22 major building projects: five HVAC replacements, five roofing replacements, three window projects, one cafeteria renovation, seven safe rooms, and a brand-new middle school. This does not even include several small projects, equipment purchases for the schools or the other projects lined up to start very soon. The projects on most people’s minds, however, are the new Eisenhower Middle School (EMS) and safe rooms.
In September, bids were accepted and work on the new Eisenhower Middle School began. Earth-moving equipment barely got started, however, and the rains fell . . . and fell . . . and fell. At our monthly construction meeting two weeks ago, Crosslands Construction officials said it would take up to two weeks for the earth to dry, and it has rained several times since then. According to the Oklahoma Mesonet, our area has received upwards of nine inches of rain in the past thirty days, whereas we only received about 2 inches in the 30 days prior. That’s a rainy month in Southwest Oklahoma. Forget about washing your car to bust a drought, just build a middle school!
One of the most frequent questions I receive: “Shouldn’t construction have begun sooner on the safe rooms and EMS?” After all, the election was November of last year, and earthwork on EMS did not start until September – ten months later. Laws governing Oklahoma school districts’ use of bond funds are very strict, so we could not start much of anything until the election was successful and the bonds were sold several months later. Prior to the election, we could only do very preliminary planning for these projects. By April, however, EMS was about 50% designed, and the first safe room bids went out just over 6 months after the voters approved the Student Investment Program (SIP).
By law, we could not do much until the funds were secured, but once that happened, everyone proceeded at full throttle. By summer, the building reached the 95% design phase, which meant our architect and construction manager were ready for bids. The first bids were accepted, and crews hit it hard. Then it started raining, and the construction sites have been full of puddling water ever since. The rain delays have been a little frustrating, but we dare not complain about extra rain in Western Oklahoma.
Ten months may seem like a long time to design everything and start construction, but I do not believe that EMS or the saferooms could have begun sooner responsibly. Not only did the buildings have to be designed, but pre-construction details had to be settled. Everything from utilities to the impact on Gore traffic had to be worked out before construction could begin. For EMS and the saferooms to be designed and started in ten short months is impressive, thanks to Architects in Partnership and Crosslands Construction for keeping a tight schedule. And because Crosslands is a construction manager at risk (CMAR), our bids are approved at Guaranteed Maximum Price. This means we expect fewer surprises, change-orders, and delays. Rain notwithstanding, of course.
So far . . . Eisenhower Middle School and the safe rooms seem to be on schedule, despite the rain, but November’s election was not just about buildings. District-wide teams have been working to purchase the first round of technology and furniture. Sites have received their allocations for the library and program equipment, and purchase orders have started coming in. Look for more articles in the coming weeks on other bond projects. I cannot imagine a more exciting time for our community or school district. Lawton Public Schools cannot thank this community enough for these tremendous blessings.