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School District Gears Up to Spend $2.1 Billion on Repairs, Upgrades

Although the slowdown in home construction is expected to continue, business is picking up in the public sector.

The San Diego Unified School District is gearing up to spend $2.1 billion to upgrade 180 schools in its 200-square-mile district.

Funds for the district, which serves 135,000 students, come from the Proposition S bond measure approved Nov. 4. Upgrades will include repairs to restrooms and leaky roofs, and new technology systems for students and staff.

“Prop. S will touch nearly every school in the district,” said Cynthia Reed-Porter, facilities communications supervisor for the school district.

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Reed-Porter said the system will offer 30 contracts in the first year, starting with three in March. The district will consider selecting a program manager for the projects later this month.

First-year projects include construction of permanent classroom buildings to replace portable buildings, Americans with Disabilities Act improvements for high school stadiums, and technology upgrades.

Construction Managers Selected

Barnhart, which specializes in public school construction, was one of 11 firms approved to serve as the construction manager in upcoming projects.

“The district is getting (its) ducks in a row,” said President Eric Stenman. “Because of the fiscal crisis at the state and in the overall economy, that probably pushed when the district wanted to launch their program by March to June or July now.”

Stenman estimates the district will start $100 million to $120 million in projects through first quarter 2010. Most are $1 million to $2 million jobs with a few $5 million to $10 million projects.

He said slowdown has made it tough for residential, commercial and public builders.

“The economy has really hurt all of us,” Stenman said. “I don’t think right now it is a good time to be anything but if I had to choose to be a private or public contractor, I would want to be a public contractor. Just look back to the November election. California voters overwhelmingly approved $40 million in bond measures.”

C.W. Driver’s San Diego office has worked on a number of local school projects, including jobs for the Grossmont Union High, San Marcos Unified, and Sweetwater Union High school districts.

The Pasadena-based general contractor specializes in public education buildings, as well working in commercial, health care, industrial and retail markets.

Education Projects

Joe Grosshart, director of preconstruction and marketing at C.W. Driver, said half of his projects are for K-12 districts and colleges.

“It has been the segment that has had dollars to spend,” said Grosshart.

Grosshart said he has seen an increasing number of contractors attending pre-bid project information meetings.

“Definitely, more and more people are looking at education building as an area where there might be opportunities,” said Grosshart.


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