The true cost of rebuilding school facilities

The Dolores School District's facilities improvement project will cost more than expected. Last week, we faced the reality of the true cost of our building project. We needed to redesign the scope of the project and inject up to $750,000 from our reserves to stay within budget. We acted quickly with the approval of our school board to prevent this project from stalling.

Many, including myself, are asking how did this happen? To begin with, the original master plan and grant application dating back to 2010-2011 school year had some inaccurate square foot cost estimates. For example, the locker rooms were estimated at $75 per square foot to "remodel." The reality is that these locker rooms will be a complete teardown and rebuild costing $215 per square foot. This inaccuracy caused the project to be $560,000 over budget. Replacing the Science/VoAg building was also off the mark by $660,484. A circulation hallway space was not accounted for in the original grant adding $158,478 to the project. There was no owner contingency set aside for the unexpected. We have set aside $300,000 today. In addition, there were many other smaller inaccurate and unexpected costs to this project.

So, you might be asking how are we going to correct this financial hurdle and stay on schedule with our building project. We have reduced the scope of the total project while maintaining the integrity of the plans we presented to our community and to the Colorado Department of Education, saving us $1.4 million. The Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grant that provided us with $2.67 million in December of 2012 has a 5 percent ($280,000) contingency budgeted for unforeseen circumstances. For example, we have tested the building material in the locker rooms for asbestos and found some. The asbestos abatement will cost anywhere from $20,000-$100,000. This qualifies as an unforeseen circumstance. In addition to these mentioned cost-reducing measures, we will be pursuing supplemental and possibly emergency funding from the BEST grant program.

This week I will be presenting our case to the BEST board in Denver with the goal of receiving additional grant funding to support our project. Supplemental grant funding applications and approval will not be granted until next school year, but could be matched with some of the $750,000 of our reserves that has be allocated for this project. To be clear, we are very grateful for the voter approved matching bond and will not be asking our voters for more funding.

Next Tuesday night, we will be discussing this project and many other interesting educational topics during our school board meeting. If you have any questions, please call our district office at 882-7255, or email your questions to Thanks for your support of our schools.

Scott Cooper is the Superintendent of the Dolores School District Re-4a.