Officials in the Fremont (Calif.) Unified District are shelving nearly 50 school improvement projects as they prepare to convert all five of the city’s junior high schools into middle schools.
The San Jose Mercury-News reports that about $171 million worth of upgrades intended to be paid for with bond money from a 2014 referendum will be put on hold and reassessed. District officials say rising construction costs and enrollment growth have exceeded their projections and have claimed more of the the bond measure’s contingency funds than planned.
The projects being put off include lighting, roofing, flooring and ventilation upgrades at 20 elementary schools, as well as plans to modernize three high schools.
“The skyrocketing escalation of construction costs poses real challenges for the scheduled implementation of bond projects,” says Kim Wallace, Fremont superintendent.
The middle school conversions, which are intended to expand those campuses to accommodate grades six through eight and ease crowding at elementary schools, make up the bulk of the roughly $365 million allocated for projects in progress.
The district expects the first of those conversions, at Walters Junior High School, to be completed in time for the opening of the 2019-20 school year. Horner Junior High will follow in the fall of 2020.
Both of those are under construction; only planning and design has started for the remaining three: Centerville, Thornton, and Hopkins junior high schools.
“The Board’s highest priority is the conversion of the five middle school campuses," Wallace says.
But rising construction costs are forcing the district to choose which projects can move forward and which ones will have to wait.
The district’s long-range planning suggested in 2014 there was about $1.6 billion worth of facilities upgrades and expansion needed across the district.