SIOUX CITY – The Sioux City Community School District has indefinitely delayed the construction of a permanent space for its virtual academy due to much higher construction costs than anticipated.
The school board rejected the low bid of $1.93 million from W.A. Klinger of Sioux City for the remodeling of Career Academy’s second floor for the Vibe Academy.
Tim Paul, the district’s director of operations and maintenance, recommended the board reject all bids due to the higher than the estimated costs.
FEH Design of Sioux City originally estimated the VIBE Academy construction to cost $1.48 million. Additional costs include $365,380.53 for furnishings and $50,000 for building security and IT.
Matt Basye said there were a variety of factors that led to higher than expected bids, including the short project timeframe, the bid period being over the holidays, construction material cost increase over the first of the year and the use of Davis Bacon Act wages for the projects.
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Three bids were received, with Klinger coming in at the lowest. L&L Builders Co. of Sioux City bid $2.06 million and Nelson Commercial Construction of Sioux City bid $2.15 million.
Paul said he is working with Basye to remove aspects of the project to reduce the price, and he will approach the board again to restart the bidding process.
Currently, the virtual academy teachers are housed on the fourth floor of the Ho-Chunk Centre. To continue leasing that space for 10 years would cost the district $1.49 million, according to school board documents.
Paul said the current lease with the Ho-Chunk Centre may need to be extended due to this delay on the project.
Basye presented the layout plan to the board in November.
Around 14,000 square feet of the second floor of the Career Academy will be used for the VIBE Academy. The space will include training rooms, open layout for around 40 instructors, specialty rooms – such as counseling, music, art and physical education – a break room and work room.
Basye said his team didn’t want it to look like a call center. More windows will be added for natural light and most of the division will be through furniture. Basye said currently there is an example display of the layout with the proposed headsets and microphones at the current career academy for teachers to try out.
Elementary and secondary school emergency relief III funding will be used to construct the space. The ESSER funding is currently being used to pay for the present space and can only be used through 2024.
In one of its final decisions prior to seating two newly-elected members, the board voted 4-3 to approve the remodeling project. Two of the four who voted yes, Jeremy Saint and Ron Coling, have since been replaced by Bob Michaelson and Jan George. Dan Greenwell, the new board president, and Taylor Goodvin both voted no.
Goodvin said the VIBE Academy ranks low in his priorities for the use of Education and Secondary School Relief, or ESSER, funds the federal government allocated to the district for COVID relief.
A survey done by board members, teachers and community members ranked construction of the space as a low priority, while Superintendent Paul Gausman’s administration ranked it as the No. 1 priority.
Greenwell agreed with Goodvin, stating there other options for the VIBE Academy, including continuing to lease space in the Ho-Chunk Centre, until it’s certain the online academy will continue on a long-term basis.
The ESSER funding set aside for the remodeling project, for instance, could have been used to address the ongoing substitute recruitment shortage, he said.