News

Costs soar for plans to build new high school in Menlo Park

 

Price inflation has exacted a toll on Sequoia Union High School District plans to build two new small high schools to address 2013-14 projections of a 22 percent surge in district enrollment by 2020, including up to 25 percent more students at Menlo-Atherton High School.

The district planned to build two new 400-student schools -- one in the M-2 industrial district on the east side of Menlo Park and the other in San Carlos -- using $64 million of the $265 million bond money authorized by voters in June 2014.

But instead of spending $10 million to buy land for the two schools, the district spent $13 million, Chief Facilities Officer Matthew Zito said. And now, a Nov. 18 report by Mr. Zito shows the cost impact on the remaining $54.4 million meant to build the two schools: The cost for the Menlo Park school alone assuming a 44,000-square-foot building at a cost of $825 per square foot will be $36.3 million, a jump of 33 percent over the original allocation, Mr. Zito said.

The Menlo Park school would not be a simple classroom building, and its size will be important. Scheduled to open in the fall of 2018 with a focus on science, technology, math and engineering, the school would include innovations such as "learning studios" (classrooms 25 percent larger than usual), "learning commons" (1,000-square-foot areas around classroom clusters), a student union, and labs for engineering and maker spaces large enough for equipment, safety zones and collaborative learning, Mr. Zito said.

"This building will truly be the district's most innovative," he said.

Current plans do not include facilities for physical education, Mr. Zito said. Instead, students may be offered facilities at Canada Community College. A partnership between the Sequoia district and Canada College has long been included in district plans.

Superintendent Jim Lianides reminded the board of the necessity of deciding on the size of the Menlo Park school in January if it is to open on schedule. As for the cost, splitting the $54.4 million evenly between the two schools won't do, he said. And there are no unallocated funds from Measure A to offset the inflationary effects, he added.

"Once we do this," board President Allen Weiner said to the rest of the board, "it's a little tough to unwind it. Clearly, this price will go beyond 50 percent of the funds set aside for small school construction."

One option: A $9 billion statewide school construction bond measure, which would need approval of a simple majority of voters to pass, is eligible for the statewide ballot in November 2016. The Sequoia district could request up to $18 million if it's approved, Mr. Zito said.

Enrollment

Data from the Sequoia district shows that as of October 2015, enrollment has declined in the past year by about 2 percent at Carlmont and Woodside high schools, and has increased by 1 percent at Sequoia High, and by 6 percent at Menlo-Atherton High.

With respect to the "slight" decline at Woodside High, Superintendent Lianides noted that while the cost of living may be driving families out of parts of Redwood City that are gentrifying, the offsetting effect of apartments now under construction in Redwood City is unknown.

The data shows that at Woodside and M-A, enrollment in the ninth, 10th and 11th grades is well above that of the current senior classes.

"We certainly need to be very keenly observant of enrollment as we build out our schools," Mr. Lianides said. "We're in a time of a lot of change. ... I think the tide (of enrollment increases) is still coming."

Comments

9 people like this
Posted by Robert D.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 24, 2015 at 12:54 pm

Robert D. is a registered user.

I do not know Mr. Zito, but if he worked for me - today would be his last day if the information above is accurate. We all understand the landscape here (prices of real estate, building, etc.) The next cost overrun (and I will bet $$ on this) will be the construction. Unanticipated occurrences that can literally double the cost of the job. Working with many contractors, I understand this. What I fail to understand is why they are so willing to under-bid a school district jobs knowing that the district will agree to the additional charges and they walk away with a hefty profit.
Summary: Propose a low number, come in higher but explain 'now' it will be 'state of the art' (presumes prior it was no; maybe even not good enough for inmate). Get the deal. Then - add in the cost of (wow we needed handicap stuff, etc.) and all of sudden the cost are through the roof.
I would think Peter, Menlo Voter and a few others may have additional info.
Do not get me wrong, I want top schools, with new technology, and a place to learn and thrive (and I am willing to pay for it) but not at the cost of ignorance that most private / public companies would never tolerate.


8 people like this
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Nov 24, 2015 at 1:01 pm

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

If the schools are really necessary, why not use the windfall in property tax revenue to fund the shortage? However, with dependence on "brick and mortar" institutions declining as a result of technology, I would expect that the enrollment projections will not materialize. Education will be taking place outside the strictures of an outdated system of so called "public" schools.

"...assuming a 44,000-square-foot building at a cost of $825 per square foot will be $36.3 million.."

That's one hell of an assumption! Anyone care to provide a breakdown on that $825 number? How much does it cost in other parts of these United States?


21 people like this
Posted by numbersnumbersnumbers
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 24, 2015 at 1:11 pm

1. I *do* know Mr. Zito - he is a competent, skilled guy.

2. Jack, after the last thread, you are still throwing numbers around like you know what they mean in today's marketplace?

Really?

"How much does it cost in other parts of these United States?"

How long have you lived in the Bay Area? Decades, amiright?

wow.


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 24, 2015 at 1:29 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Robert D:

of course the contractors bid low and make it up in change orders. That's how competitive bidding works. If contractors bid what they know it's actually going to cost and the other contractors don't, guess who gets the job.


4 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 24, 2015 at 1:35 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Jack:

You can thank "prevailing wage" rates for that kind of a number. Public works jobs are required to pay "prevailing wage" to labor. That wage rate is based on the cost of union labor (wages, health and welfare, etc.). That is typically double the base labor cost over non-union, non-prevailing wage jobs. Then the contractor has to add his burden on top of that (workers comp., taxes, etc.). That drives the cost of labor on these types of jobs through the roof. You can thank our legislators for that.

In addition to the labor rates, schools have very strict specifications and inspection protocols because they are buildings filled with children. The state mandates for schools are expensive.


15 people like this
Posted by Kris
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Nov 24, 2015 at 2:24 pm

As expected, costs are growing considerably and I'm sure so are the profits for the contractors. However, I'm glad to hear that the construction workers will share in the benefits thanks to State regulations and union wages. Goodness knows, the average workers need those wages to live anywhere near this affluent area.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 24, 2015 at 5:11 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Kris:

would like to know what the typical profit margin is on jobs of these types? 3%. Yep, those greedy contractors are just rakin' it in.


Like this comment
Posted by Roy
a resident of Portola Valley: Portola Valley Ranch
on Nov 24, 2015 at 10:02 pm

3% of $54 million is hardly peanuts.


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Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 25, 2015 at 7:47 am

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Roy:

3% of 54 million isn't peanuts, but neither are the risks when taking on a job of that magnitude.


3 people like this
Posted by really?
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 25, 2015 at 8:20 am

really? is a registered user.

3% for building on an ex-industrial site in the M2, and going through the Kafka-esque nightmare of a State Architect project while being underfunded? I would rather eat chopped glass.


Like this comment
Posted by Robert D.
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 25, 2015 at 9:13 am

Robert D. is a registered user.

@ Menlo Voter - one of the few times I will disagree... Yes, it is 3% on initial bid and after all cost = profit / margin. Those are the numbers used to show what was 'made' to prove that this was not a profit making venture. I mean this in all sincerity, I will sit down with you and walk you through how 'we' can make the numbers appear as 'we' want them. Do not get disillusioned with a published number. It is important to look at all of the numbers and all of the cost.


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Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Nov 25, 2015 at 12:02 pm

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

I looked at the assumption "...assuming a 44,000-square-foot building at a cost of $825 per square foot will be $36.3 million.." and said: "That's one hell of an assumption!" Outrageous! I leave it to the rest of you to explain how it became so outrageous. Could "government" have something to do with it? And, I'm sure there are some greedy hands out there who know how to work with the government.

My favorite quote: "That government is best which governs least." Thoreau


Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 25, 2015 at 4:43 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Robert D:

what construction company do you work for?


1 person likes this
Posted by trebor
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Nov 26, 2015 at 12:58 pm

Robert D is a bit grandiose in his indictment of Mr Zito. "If he worked for me this would be his last day". [part removed.] I'm sure with his vast expertise and bullying personality he could work those numbers down and be a hero.


Like this comment
Posted by Jack Hickey
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on Nov 26, 2015 at 2:13 pm

Jack Hickey is a registered user.

Menlo voter: I suspected that "prevailing wage" rates had a lot to do with cost. I would be interested in seeing a cost breakdown(labor, material, other) for:
1. School construction{like Sequoia}
2. Affordable housing(like 605 Willow)See: Web Link
3. Typical residential home construction.

BTW, my home, built in 1928, used 2x3 studs.


2 people like this
Posted by Menlo Voter
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Nov 26, 2015 at 3:29 pm

Menlo Voter is a registered user.

Jack:

Info should be available on labor costs as all contractors and subcontractors on prevailing wage jobs have to submit certified payroll information. Perhaps a public information request would get you that info?

Your home built in 1928 was built with extremely cheap labor by today's standards.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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