With crews working overtime to complete the rebuilding of Hillview Middle School before the first day of school, the Menlo Park City School District board on July 16 unanimously approved spending up to an additional $50,000 to "accelerate" the project.
Facilities director Ahmad Sheikholeslami told the board that $70,000 of previously allocated contingency funds for speeding up the project was likely to run out soon, and that of the extra $50,000 he was requesting, probably only about $25,000 would be needed. The newly budgeted money, he said, would "provide us with additional flexibility" as the project is wrapped up before the Sept. 4 opening day of school.
The $51.6 million project to rebuild the district's only middle school began in summer 2010. It was slowed along the way by change orders that involve "unforeseen conditions, district-initiated changes, and required clarification/changes made by the architect that result in added work," according to Mr. Sheikholeslami's written report.
The district has spent about $1.74 million due to change orders for a range of work and additions. In an interview, Mr. Sheikholeslami said examples of the changes include addition of an audio-visual package to the performing arts center, and enlargement of the student lunch shelter a canopy-style structure for outdoor eating.
Some changes involved adding extra structural framing, electrical, and other costly work, he said.
Change orders, he added, "are a very common thing for projects of this complexity." Many times, though, a contract includes a built-in contingency fund that the contractor can tap into at will. But with the district's contract, all spending from the contingency fund must be approved by the board.
"There's more transparency in the process," Mr. Sheikholeslami said.
He said the project is coming in on budget, with "lots of eyes on it in terms of inspections" and the presence of the project manager.
Referring to often-heard criticism that public sector building projects typically are poorly managed and lacking in efficiencies, Mr. Sheikholeslami said, "This project and whole program (of oversight) prove that we can do it and can do it right."