School Division Wrestles with Higher Middle School Construction Costs 

School Board’s Finance and Operations Committee on Tuesday voted 3-0 to continue negotiations with Howard Shockey and Sons, the sole bidder to build a new middle school, MS-14, in hopes of awarding a contract at the Aug. 9 board meeting.

The school’s support services staff members didn’t feel they were ready to offer a recommendation to the committee because they were still negotiating with Shockey. Shockey’s bid was $23.4 million over the projected estimate by about 25%.

According to the bid documents and the Code of Virginia, the school division is permitted to negotiate with the lowest responsive and responsible bidder.

“Obviously this is a concern. I’m just stunned at the 25%, but we have worked with [Shockey] in past so this is not an unknown quantity, so at least we have a contractor that we have worked with,” said School Board Chairman Jeff Morse (Dulles).

Shockey and its consultants have been tasked with identifying methods or materials that could be used to reduce the overall cost of the project.

The school system’s Support Services department also has been trying to identify other sources of funding to put toward the construction of MS-14, including looking surplus funding from other projects. It is focusing on the capital renewals and operations program within the Capital Improvement Program that would allow them to defer or delete certain projects that would make the new school the priority of the program this year. However, the reallocation of funds from the capital program would require School Board and Board of Supervisors action. 

The delay in voting on the project award for a week is meant to allow time to develop a detailed package for the full School Board and avoid missing the Aug. 9 window to award the contract. According to Chief Operations Officer Kevin Lewis, moving past that date would likely result in the rejection of the bid because of a 30-day hold on the contract. Because the bid was received July 27, the hold will sunset on Aug. 27 and the bid will expire by the time the board meets in September.

Lewis said Shockey has already expressed concerns that their subcontractors are struggling to commit to a 30-day hold with the current market conditions.

According to Lewis, Shockey has built serveral Loudoun schools, and said the cost Shockey submitted represents the current market.

Morse said he would be a big fan of delaying anything in the construction phase until later and suggested looking for support from the Board of Supervisors or other funding sources to minimize the impact on the students and staff of the new middle school. 

“I think that this is a responsible way to approach this. The full school board can have the discussion with your final determination. But we are going to need to identify the sources before we can approve the construction,” he said.

Planned to be built on the school division’s Hartland campus, MS-14 is expected to provide overcrowding relief to the Dulles North area middle schools, in particular Brambleton Middle School where enrollment exceeded capacity by 23% last fall according to Lewis. Brambleton Middle School has a design capacity of 1,445 but had 1,631 enrolled in the fall of 2021. Current 2022-2023 registration numbers are at 1,631 but are projected to be 1,779. In order to accommodate the higher numbers, the school district moved a portion of the eighth grade to Independence High School, where they will use four modular classrooms that were added this summer. 

Lewis said the current numbers to show the dire need to get a contract completed and begin building MS-14 immediately. 

“Enrollment will undoubtedly increase by the fall of 2024, exacerbating the issue,” Lewis said.

MS-14 is scheduled to open in the fall of 2024.

4 thoughts on “School Division Wrestles with Higher Middle School Construction Costs 

  • 2022-08-03 at 4:03 pm

    So they are complaining that costs of goods have increased. Hmmm, sounds like the rest of us due to inflation that has been occurring. Perhaps the BoS can put the breaks on approving new housing developments in this county, which will only bring in more students into the school district, until we have the infrastructure to support current residents. These developers are very creative in jamming in as many homes as possible even though the area surrounding it won’t support it. Yet, the BoS always approves…gee I wonder why.

    Perhaps, the BoS and LCSB can put a pause on pet projects around their woke initiatives so that they can use the taxpayer money on projects that supports the taxpayers, including giving the clown superintendent a 10% raise.

    Once again, who suffers the most? Our children. Being stuffed into overcrowded schools, that apparently won’t be built as strong as they could so that the county can save a few bucks. Now, have some of the students be separated from their peers and bussed into a high school. What a sham this county school system has become.

  • 2022-08-03 at 4:04 pm

    Runaway inflation? Yup, thank a (D) for that.
    And you can thank a (D) for the shoving unionized labor down our throats. And pushing for “prevailing wage” rules in contracts.

    Total clown show.

  • 2022-08-04 at 6:03 am

    Lots of heavy cost related items not transparently covered here. Sole bidder is not just a problem but unique to LCPS history. WHY?
    How much of the cost of these buildings is due to them being designed to be community gathering locations in times of severe weather etc which is no longer the case as schools get closed on the threat of weather much less considered to be open and welcoming of others to come in. WHY?
    Where is the study showing ALL the other schools in the same catchment area that could be expanded to either alter the size or delay the need? WHY NOT?
    Where is the confirmation that the builder has NOT been a donor to any school board member voting to give them this lucrative contract? WHY NOT?
    Where is the disclosure of the history of LCPS dealing with this contractor? Has there been any construction related issues in the past or is the lack of disclosure confirmation there haven’t been? No over-runs ever?????
    Is the design similar to what s normally built so all or most of the blueprints are already well understood?
    Finally is there any belief the contractor will at least try to hire local Loudoun labor?

  • 2022-08-04 at 8:35 am

    Well, perhaps the school board might have thought of this before throwing $28,000 at the failed superintendent? I guess the answer is to hire more administrators and diversity officers.

    The good news is, the way the board and school system is chasing students out of public schools, the county won’t need that many new schools.

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