Why hasn’t Prince Edward Elementary project gone out to bid?

Published 7:56 am Wednesday, November 15, 2023

On Thursday, Aug. 30, Prince Edward supervisors voted to move forward with the $43.3 million renovation of Prince Edward Elementary. The idea was that Moseley Architects, the company hired by the school district, would have renovation designs finished by mid-October, to be looked at and approved over the final two months of the year. We’ve passed the halfway point in November and those designs haven’t been turned over yet, due to one key problem. Prince Edward County Public Schools still doesn’t have a signed contract in place with Moseley yet, despite working with the group since the spring. 

“The Moseley attorney has some questions,” Prince Edward Superintendent Dr. Barbara Johnson told her school board on Wednesday, Nov. 8. “Our attorney has recommended that we all get together. They’ve nailed down the big pieces but there is some scope work they want to discuss with us.” 

School board member Susan Kimbrough asked Johnson what has been causing the delay. Originally, Johnson had told the board at their Oct. 4 meeting she planned to have the contract in hand within days. 

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“We are ready to sign,” Johnson said Wednesday. “We are waiting for whatever it is their attorney wants. It’s a process and they have to agree.” 

When Kimbrough asked for specifics, Johnson said the Moseley attorney wanted changes in compensation, to review the percentage of the fee they would receive “for doing X, Y and Z” as detailed in the contract. 

“When do we anticipate this?” Kimbrough asked. “This feels like we can’t really move forward until this is signed, we can’t put out bids.”  

Another concern raised is that every delay risks construction costs rising and that’s not something the district, or county, can afford.  

Timeframe and current option

Johnson said she hoped to have a meeting with the attorney before Thanksgiving and a signed contract done by the end of the month or at least before the next school board meeting. Johnson said the lack of a contract shouldn’t slow the project down. She claimed that Moseley Architects has been working on the designs, despite the lack of a contract, and should still be able to put the project out for bid on schedule. 

The project design is based on Option 3, chosen by the board of supervisors in their Aug. 30 meeting. That option involves demolishing the two oldest buildings at the elementary school. In their place will be new construction connecting the remaining buildings, making it much easier to travel between classrooms. It also involves more seating options, bigger classrooms in some cases and more options for hands-on learning. The front entrance would also be relocated, getting traffic off Eagle Drive and fixing the general traffic situation during drop-off and pick-up times.

Now for all that to happen, students can’t be in the building. That means, as construction should be happening when class starts back in August 2024, students would have to be put in trailers. The district hasn’t looked into purchasing those trailers yet, as Johnson said the contract with Moseley needed to be signed before any other part of the project could be tackled. 

Prince Edward Elementary costs 

While the elementary school design is one part of the process, the school district just finished another equally important portion. Part of the reason Prince Edward could afford the $43.3 million price tag is the idea the state would pay part of it. 

The Commonwealth has a series of capital improvement grants, distributed through the Virginia Department of Education, that cities and counties can apply for to help cover the cost of school renovations. Applications are currently being accepted for the latest round of those. Prince Edward submitted its application earlier this month. 

“We’ve worked with Moseley, we’ve worked with the county administrator’s office and we sent the grant off last Friday (Nov. 3),” Johnson said. 

If they get approved, the county would get 20% of the total or $8.7 million paid for Prince Edward Elementary through this grant. That would leave Prince Edward with just under $35 million to pay. According to state officials, an announcement about which applications were approved for funding should be out either at the end of January or in early February. 

Meanwhile, the district has decided to pay for playground renovation at the elementary school, instead of including it in the final bill covered by the county. It wouldn’t be a cheap project, however. Rebuilding the playground alone would be about $400,000, as the district needs to make some changes around it. That includes providing some outdoor seating, to be used for an outdoor classroom. 

That project is now scheduled to start around mid-March. Johnson said her goal is to have the renovated playground operational for children to access it after Spring Break.