School bond plans take shape

by Carley Dryden
Published January 15, 2009

On Jan. 7, school board members approved Harley Ellis Devereaux firm as the architect for the proposed $54 million Mira Costa renovation, then wondered aloud if the project could be completed under budget. The improvements are to be paid for through Measure BB bonds, which voters approved in November.
A four-person team from the firm will prepare plans for new classrooms, modernizing existing structures and relocating the high school’s campus maintenance and operation building.
Principal-in-charge John Dale has worked with the Glendale, Oak Park, LA Unified, El Monte, Solana Beach, San Diego and Santa Monica school districts.
“We’re thrilled to be involved, it’s an honor,” Dale said. “We think it’s a great district and we’re very excited about the potential for doing great things at Mira Costa.”
Board members Ida VanderPoorte and Bill Fournell interviewed six of the 22 firms who submitted proposals, before narrowing it down to three finalists.
Tony Gonzalez, a member of the Measure BB Citizens Oversight Committee, and an architect specializing in K-12 construction projects sat in on the interview process.
“It was very good having him there. He had ideas of what he thought should be presented,” VanderPoorte said.
Though he could only make recommendations, “it happened that all of us we’re on the same page,” VanderPoorte added.
Harley Ellis has a good record for getting paperwork through the Division of the State Architect (DSA), which approves school bond building plans, a process that can take 18 months, VanderPoorte said.
School Board President Nancy Hersman expressed concern that the architect firm had already included contingency costs in their proposed budget.
“My concern is can we really do it for the dollar amount we put in here?” she asked the board.
VanderPoorte said Harley Ellis was the only firm who thought they could stick within the budget proposed by the board.
“We think that the basic budget is good,” Dale said.
In their proposal, the firm said the district could possibly find savings by demolition of some buildings and keeping students in their classrooms, rather than move them to temporary classrooms away from the construction.
School board member Joyce Fahey said the board should meet to discuss balancing the savings from accelerating construction with the resulting inconveniences to students, such as noise.
Assistant superintendent Steve Romines said the board’s next meeting with the architects will be to draft a contract flexible enough to allow for continued community input on the remodeling plans. He said the contract should be completed by the first board meeting in February.
“We’re ready to jump in,” Dale said. “The ball is in the district’s court on how they want to move forward.” ER