By Tina Richards

An update on the status of the new science centers for Orange Unified’s four high schools, to be paid for with Measure S bond money, was presented to the board of trustees at its Aug. 17 meeting.

“We’re doing stuff, we’re making progress,” Ronald Lebs, assistant superintendent for facilities and planning, told the board. Design development is well underway, contracts have been negotiated, cost reduction options explored, and site surveys and subsurface investigations planned.  A custom cost management system has been created, and the district is reviewing proposals for a final construction cost accounting software system. The project team, consisting of OUSD staff, four architectural firms, and four construction management companies, held a kickoff meeting in August.  The Citizens Oversight Committee will meet Sept. 6.

Canyon High School, at an estimated $69,500,000, is the most expensive and, at 61,419 sq. ft., the largest of the lot.  Canyon’s cost is substantially higher than that of the other schools because it includes demolition of an existing building, 100 additional parking spaces, traffic circulation improvements, and interim housing for administrators.  In addition to the 12 science labs each school’s new facility will house, the extra square footage at Canyon will include 12 additional classrooms and new student services and administration offices.

Easy for ElMo
El Modena, at $40,765,811, is the least expensive because the project is “stand alone,” requires less preparation and few existing services will need to be relocated during construction. Construction costs, beyond the building itself, include parking lot lighting and landscaping.  Its 42,501 sq. ft. will include the standard number of science labs, one classroom, and two medically fragile rooms.

Orange High school’s $52,388,588 estimated total cost includes the removal of portable classrooms, a new snack bar, bus drop off area and improved vehicle circulation. It’s 42,300 sq. ft. will include the science labs, one classroom and two medically fragile rooms. The building, located in the middle of the campus, will be adjacent to a new Panther pavilion plaza.

Before construction at Villa Park High begins, the existing Building 300 will be demolished, and 10 portable buildings installed, bringing its cost to $45,200,000. The new 44,838-sq.-ft. science building will occupy the portion of the campus where Building 300 now sits, and will house two classrooms and two medically fragile rooms,  along with the labs.  Villa Park will also see 250 new lockers, a new bus drop off, vehicle circulation improvements and a stormwater/bioretention basin.

Keeping tabs on labs
Some OUSD constituents have questioned the need for 48 dedicated science labs in a district that is losing enrollment. That number, says Deputy Superintendent for Educational Services and Acting Superintendent Gunn Marie Hansen, reflects future projections and “where we want to be in the future.”  It’s based on demand, which, "is huge,"  she says. "Current science classrooms are over packed.  Students want to take more science, math, and technology courses.”

The total cost estimates for each high school facility include healthy contingency fees for design and construction.  The district has already spent $1.4 million on design, program and construction management and support.  That money comes from the $10 million OUSD set aside to kick-start the projects.  The district does not expect to begin issuing bonds until late 2018 or 2019.

Preliminary work proceeds on OUSD projects without benefit of bond money