Mt. Vernon Register-News

January 25, 2014

MVTHS looks at new school tech budget

The Register-News

---- — MT. VERNON — Initial estimates are it may cost up to $2 million to equip the new proposed Mt. Vernon Township High School with technology.

Even so, this figure is a rough projection and MVTHS officials will continue to look for ways to reduce the cost, said Superintendent Michael Smith.

Changes in the new school’s design may still be forthcoming, and if the size of the campus is reduced, technology costs would fall as well, Smith said. Bids have not yet been sought for the technology.

“That’s like a maximum ceiling to shoot for,” Smith said of the $2 million estimate. “We’ll try to reduce it from there. … We’ll continue to try to find things to make it a little bit lower than that if we can.”

The MVTHS Board of Education briefly discussed the new school’s technology budget at a board meeting Tuesday night.

Smith presented the board with a report from Advanced Systems Group, a consulting firm tasked with developing a total cost estimate for technology at the new school.

The $2 million figure is for equipping the entire school with fiber, a wireless network, servers, a surveillance system, alarms, LCD projectors, clocks, intercoms, phones and more. The estimate includes labor and equipment costs.

Computers were not part of the estimate, as they will be leased separately, Smith said.

The technology portion of the new campus will likely be bid out three to four months after the construction bids are awarded, Smith said. The furniture would also be bid out separately, some time after the technology bidding is finished.

The awarding of construction bids has been delayed by recent developments.

In December, construction bids came in at about $6 million over-budget, prompting district officials and consultants to look for ways to cut costs. About $3.5 to $4 million in reductions have been made so far.

Then, MVTHS officials announced Tuesday they will likely rebid most, if not all, of the new school’s construction on the advice of legal counsel.

This announcement came a day after board members had discussed possibly eliminating the theater building and football field from the new school’s construction plans to deal with budget over-runs.

The potential loss of the theater provoked a heated response from theater students and faculty, many of whom attended Tuesday’s board meeting to voice their concerns.

Now, a special MVTHS Board meeting has been set for 4 p.m. Jan. 28 to continue discussions on the new school.

At this meeting, scope changes may be approved for the project, which could impact the technology budget, Smith said.

For example, if MVTHS decides to cut four classrooms from the new school, as has been proposed, it would reduce the technology costs. Possible changes to the theater could also have an effect on technology, Smith said.

Chris Nisbet, project director for the McCarthy consulting firm, said the time frame for rebidding construction may depend a great deal on what comes out of the Jan. 28 meeting.

“It’s all driven by how much time the architect needs to get this thing into budget,” Nisbet said.

Smith said the new school has been designed so that “the building fits the teaching,” not the other way around. Having the campus well-equipped with technology is a key part of the process, he said.

“The technology is an integral part, a crucial part, of making that building work,” Smith said.