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School Construction 2003

August 21, 2003

High school embraces small-school format

  • GC/CM helps Cleveland make the switch
    Heery International

    Cleveland High School
    Photo by Jon Silver
    Cleveland High School’s $60.4 million renovation promises to be complicated. The 1927 school will be divided into four autonomous academies despite constraints imposed by an unusual site and historic-preservation requirements. Seattle Public Schools turned to a general contractor/construction manager for construction-related input before the design was completed.

    Seattle’s Cleveland High School opened in 1927 to serve Georgetown-area students, who arrived by the Lucile Street trolley car.

    Since then, the needs of students and the community have changed.

    Seattle Public Schools, recognizing these changes, is transforming itself to offer new ways to educate secondary students. The district is also incorporating these ideas into school construction projects, and inviting schools, communities, parents and students to be involved in the design planning.

    The district’s $398 million Building Excellence II capital levy, approved by voters in February 2001, covers new construction, renovation or additions at 17 schools, including Cleveland.

    Cleveland’s 76-year-old building is scheduled for a $60.4 million renovation and modernization, as well as a new gymnasium, commons building and classroom building. The project architect is Mahlum Architects.

    Improvements will be made to the small classrooms, science labs, specialty classrooms and seismic structure. Updates will also be made to exterior windows, ceilings, floors and the electrical system. Additional work will improve ADA accessibility and dampen exterior noise. Fifty-year-old portable classrooms will be replaced with a classroom addition.

    Prioritizing needs

    Working with the school administration, the district’s facilities department developed capital improvement needs based on the following priority rankings: health and safety, building condition, capacity needs, educational adequacy, and program improvement.

    Additional issues that will affect the work include historic preservation and site constraints. The Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board designated the school a historic landmark in 1999. As a result, Seattle Public Schools is required to maintain and preserve the exterior of the original three-story building.

    The Cleveland site is also divided by a large environmentally critical area containing a slope of over 50 feet between the school buildings and the athletic fields. Most of the athletic fields are on Seattle Parks and Recreation property, and are used by the school under a joint-use agreement between the district and Parks Department.

    Early expertise

    With so many complicated issues affecting Cleveland’s modernization program, Seattle Public Schools received permission from the state to use a GC/CM (general contractor/construction management) delivery format.

    GC/CM allows the district to bring construction expertise into the early stages of the project, while the design is being developed and construction activities are being planned.

    GC/CM has been used extensively in the private sector and is used successfully at the University of Washington and Washington State University. Three other district high schools are using this form of project delivery for their building programs, making Cleveland one of the first few schools to benefit from GC/CM.

    Small-school format

    In addition to choosing an alternative project delivery format, the school will employ a new educational format.

    The 735-student school is being reconfigured into four smaller, autonomous schools: Arts and Humanities School; Health, Environment and Life Sciences Academy; Infotech Academy; and School for Global Studies. Each of the small schools will operate on the Cleveland campus, with independent curriculums and schedules.

    The “small schools” approach lowers student-to-teacher ratios, in part to enhance relationships between students and teachers. The focus is on helping students become more engaged with their learning experience and preparing them to succeed in higher education or career training.

    Cleveland is pioneering this new educational format, and will offer the small schools approach starting this fall.

    Construction is scheduled to begin in summer of 2005, and the campus is expected to be ready for students by fall of 2007. During construction, students and staff will move to the Boren School in West Seattle.

    The pre-construction portion of the services provided by the GC/CM will include reviewing the schematic design documents with the architect. The GC/CM will then prepare an independent construction cost estimate for the project.

    The GC/CM will also work to develop cost-savings ideas and will list possible deductive alternates that the project team can consider in order to hold the project within its budget. All of this activity is reviewed at the early stages of the project, prior to extending effort and cost to develop the bid packages, thus providing crucial feedback to the project team on budget and schedule-related project issues.

    As the Cleveland project moves forward, the project team will review how to resolve issues surrounding demolition, environmental/hazardous material removal, historic preservation and building renovation design.

    Staying within budget

    The GC/CM will be an integral member of the project team in determining the constructibility and procurement plan for the project. By building an early construction schedule and determining the extent and number of bid packages, the GC/CM will provide key insights to the project team in maintaining budget and schedule requirements.

    Once a significant level of design work has been completed (at the end of the design development phase), the GC/CM will develop a guaranteed maximum price (GMP) for the construction project.

    The GC/CM will have already agreed to its fee and general condition costs for the project prior to developing the GMP. The school district will then negotiate with the GC/CM for the agreed-upon GMP, and that cost (which comprises the construction work) will be settled prior to the completion of the construction (design) documents.

    At this point, the GC/CM will work to keep the project construction costs within the GMP, per its contract.

    Taken together, Cleveland’s transformation to small schools and the school district’s use of GC/CM project delivery will help this project build an example that future schools throughout the country will have available to them in meeting the new challenges of delivering high-quality education.

    David Wilson is a project manager for Heery International and is currently managing the Cleveland High School project. Heery is a full-service architecture, interior design, engineering, construction management and program management firm with over 1000 employees located in offices throughout the United States and Europe.

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