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Reevaluation of NISD campus upgrades – “Caught off guard by how much things have inflated”

NEDERLAND — School district and construction leaders still expect a brand new Nederland High to open for the fall of 2023 despite a slight planning pause and unexpected rise in the cost of raw materials.

Although every amenity requested by stakeholders might not be included in the final construction, the Nederland Independent School District Board of Trustees remains optimistic that all student needs are going to be addressed with final construction.

“We’re not going to accept or allow for a sub-par product to be constructed,” School Board President Micah Mosley said. “This is part of the exercise to go through — dissecting your wants versus your needs to really understand what truly needs to happen and still incorporate some of the wants.”

Mosley’s statement came in response to a presentation this week to school board members by Lisa Michela of IBI, the firm hired to oversee design and costs of NISD’s voter-approved $155.6-million bond package.

Included in that package is a $82.7 million construction plan for a new Nederland High School over a 272,000 square feet footprint built at the same location as the current school.

“We were kind of caught off guard by how much things have inflated,” Michela told school board members. “Now we are having to react to it. There is no way that anyone could have really predicted that a year ago.”

According to Michela, IBI is working with construction manager H.B. Neild and school district leaders on “value engineering,” meaning a review of the construction plan to determine any items that can be changed to bring down the cost.

“An easy example of that is looking at ceiling tile and saying, ‘If we change that ceiling tile to a different manufacturer or different model, that could save us some money,’” Michela said.

The next step for review is the scope of the project and seeing what extras could possibly be eliminated.

“We’re going to look to see what is absolutely needed,” Michela said. “We got to this point because we were listening to everyone’s input. We had teachers, staff and administration listing their wants and needs. We really tried hard to fit that all into the building but we now know that is not going to work. So we’re going to look hard at what we absolutely need in a building and then that is what we are going to call a base bid.”

A second bid will be formulated called ad alternates to determine extras that can be afforded through the voter-approved funding total.

Similar efforts will take place in review of the district’s elementary school upgrades and football stadium enhancements.

School Board member Kay DeCuir stressed to the district’s construction team that no one anticipates the prices of materials to come down.

“I would hate to see us continue to hold off and these goods continue to go up,” she said.

Michela said there is no plan to postpone the completion of the high school and football stadium, adding the elementary school construction starts would only be delayed a couple of months.

Thomas Neild of H.B. Neild said the combination of the COVID pandemic, the price of oil and gas, forest fires, hurricanes and trade embargos created a recipe for prices to start going up.

However, he told the school board, “we’re going to get in done under budget and make it work.”