WATERLOO — Waterloo Community Schools’ career and technical education programs are set to continue growing after the Board of Education on Monday approved a $13.22 million building contract.
Larson Construction of Independence submitted the lowest of three bids for an approximately 80,000-square-foot expansion of the Waterloo Career Center. Located at the north end of Central Middle School, renovation work will expand the center into unused space — including the building’s second floor — and create a new 2,500-square-foot front entrance. By the time construction is complete in the summer of 2019, the district will have space for as many as 17 career programs.
District officials hailed the center for the benefits it provides to students.
“This is a path that levels the playing field for all kids,” said Superintendent Jane Lindaman. “This is a very significant thing for Waterloo Schools.”
Board member Shanlee McNally said the district is “leading a trend in the state” by developing the career center, which has taken years and included input from hundreds of citizens and business interests.
“This is something that has not come to fruition overnight,” she said. “I just think it’s great for kids, it’s good for our community.”
Board member Lyle Schmitt said because of that community input, “we have the confidence it is the right direction.”
Larson’s base bid was $12.5 million plus another $716,000 for five alternates chosen by the board. The other companies’ proposals including the alternates totaled $13.89 million and $13.91 million. The work, which gets underway on the second floor in January, will be funded with 1 percent sales tax proceeds.
Alternates that were approved relate to the middle school entrance, window replacements, site irrigation, a radiant snow melt system and a second re-injection well for geothermal heating and cooling. Testing could determine later that the second well isn’t needed. If so, the cost would be deducted by change order.
Currently, the district has five CTE programs at the center, with another four planned to start next fall. “When I look a the space, it seems that we could have up to 17 (programs) by 2020,” said Lindaman. Students at any district high school and Cedar Falls High School can enroll in the 90-minute daily classes offered there.
Smaller construction projects were completed in the summers of 2016 — right before it opened — and 2017 to create space for the current programs.
Prior to locating the center at the middle school, voters were asked to approve a bond issue to build a stand-alone career center that would have housed 30 programs.
After it was defeated, district leaders began looking at creating a scaled-down center with existing funding in current facilities.
In related action, the board approved a resolution to issue debt for reimbursement of expenditures connected to the project that have been made in the last 60 days.
The district plans to issue $17.4 million in revenue bonds after bids are received in January that would be repaid with sales tax proceeds. The funds are expected to cover the projected construction costs, architectural fees, and contingency along with purchases of furniture, equipment and technology.