Cleveland ISD projects on schedule for upcoming school year

Vinyl letters announcing "Cleveland Indians" are high up on a wall in the Cleveland Middle School cafetorium. The letters are visible through glass windows to passersby from Houston Street (SH 321). Photo credit: John McCulloch

It might not seem possible given the amount of construction projects still left to do, but Cleveland Middle School and Eastside Elementary campuses will be ready in time for the upcoming school year, according to Cleveland ISD Superintendent Dr. Darrel Myers.

“Our construction projects right now are going well. We are going to kick off some other projects in the next couple of months. We are getting the budgets and the scope of work ready for those to go out to bid pretty quickly, probably within the next month or so,” Myers said.

New classrooms, improved media centers and bigger kitchens were added to both campuses while a new cafetorium and entryway were also built at the middle school. Northside Elementary received mechanical upgrades. Funding for the projects came from a $35 million bond package approved by voters in 2015.

When school resumes in August, all of the elementary campuses in the district – Northside, Eastside and Southside – will be divided into campuses for pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. Myers believes that it will take a little while for students and parents to adjust to the new distribution of students but is confident this is the best course of action for the district and the students in the long run.

“It will certain be more beneficial academically. The biggest issue I see coming for us is transportation. We are asking the public to please bear with us as we make the change. There will be bumps along the road but we’ll get it straightened out,” he said.

Roger Curry, superintendent of J.E. Kingham Construction, says the bulk of the project is behind them and contractors are now working on interior details, such as installing sheeting and flooring, and painting the walls.

Furniture, carpet and tile floors will be cleaned prior to reorganizing all of the contents of the classrooms. Over at the middle school, chairs, tables, desks and classroom organizers are loosely organized in the cafetorium. At Eastside, workers have a jump on the middle school campus and are already applying the first of 20 coats of wax to the cafetorium floor.

Because of the district’s booming student population growth, both Eastside and Cleveland Middle School will be full when they open despite the additional classrooms.

“I think the people in our district are going to have to get accustomed to construction. Obviously you don’t want to overbuild schools, so we are going to lag slightly behind. This means that we will continue to use portable buildings for classrooms,” he said. “That’s the most conservative approach to take. We have a fiscally conservative community and board, so we want to make sure that the district is getting the most for its money.”

According to Myers, Cleveland ISD is growing by an average of 700-800 students per year, the equivalent of 30 or so classrooms.

“We are looking at having 3,000 to 4,000 additional students over the next five years based on the way we are trending,” he said. “The new classrooms at Eastside and the middle school will be full as soon as they open. At the middle school, we are more than likely going to have 1,300 to 1,400 students this year.”

NEXT PROJECTS GET UNDERWAY

As one bond project wraps up, another is now beginning. An $80 million bond approved by voters in November 2017 is providing for an expansion at Cleveland High School, construction of a new elementary campus in the Plum Grove area and construction of a new service center for the district’s auxiliary departments, such as transportation, food service, warehouse and maintenance and operation.

Myers said that new trade tariffs, which impacts the steel, concrete, framing and wiring industries, have driven up the cost of construction by 10-20 percent in the last two months.

“Just about any portion of the construction industry you can think of will be impacted by the tariffs. Any time you are trading commodities, you will have price fluctuations,” he said. “We will move forward on our projects but we are certainly looking at ways to generate cost savings.”

The new elementary was originally projected to cost $28 million but estimates now show it will be closer to $33 million. The new wing at the high school, projected to cost $30 million, is now estimated to cost $35 million.

The construction manager at risk for the high school and elementary projects is Sedalco Construction Services of Fort Worth; the architect is Claycomb Associates of Houston.

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