CEDAR FALLS — Bess Streeter Aldrich Elementary School just got bigger.
The Board of Education on Monday approved adding six more classrooms to the school currently under construction near Erik Road west of Hudson Road. That will make room for about 115 more students, raising the capacity to as much as 640.
“They turn the building from a three-section to a four-section building,” Doug Nefzger, chief financial officer, said of the additional classrooms. A fourth classroom will be built for each of the first through sixth grades. Four kindergarten classrooms were part of the original plans.
Cedar Falls Community Schools sought an alternate from contractors for extra space at the school because enrollment estimates show the three-section building could be over its capacity by the fall of 2026, eight years after opening. Still, the $659,000 cost wasn’t accepted in January when Larsen Construction was awarded the $20.5 million contract because it put the school further over budget. Yet, officials left the door open for amending the contract after construction started.
“The reason we’re here tonight is because we’ve had a good spring for construction,” said Superintendent Andy Pattee, noting they expected a window of time at some point to make the change. That time has arrived. “The contractors said we are starting to pour those footings.”
In the end, though, the board’s unanimous decision may add only $132,044 to the total price tag.
Savings are being found in a number of ways: material changes for storm, sanitary sewer and water lines; changes in some heating/cooling units, lighting fixtures and wall insulation; modifications to indoor frames and hardware, storm shelter window and shutter types; revising exterior metal panels on the gym and one of the brick colors for the building.
Combined, those changes save $351,996, reducing the extra cost to $307,004. Other savings are possible in the geothermal heating and cooling system.
“We did accept the alternate (bid) for the second reinjection well,” said Nefzger, with a $175,000 cost. “That’s sort of a placeholder.”
Other district construction projects have not ended up needing a second well. “Early indications are that we probably won’t need it in this case, either,” he explained. That would lower the net additional cost to just over $132,000.
Resident Eric Giddens raised concerns with the proposed change in insulation during the meeting’s public comment period. “I and others in the community are deeply concerned about energy use and efficiency,” he told the board, voicing fear of a negative affect with the change to less expensive insulation.
Members of the design team explained the change would not reduce energy efficiency. They were approached about switching by the contractor, whose workers prefer using the different insulation. That led to a reduction in cost.
Many of the changed materials are a departure from the district’s standards for its buildings. But, after some research, administrators were satisfied with the substitutions and may update the building standards to reflect those materials.
In today’s dollars, Pattee said coming back five years later to add the six classrooms would cost between $1.5 million and $1.8 million.
“So it would be fiscally irresponsible not to do this,” said board member Jeff Hassman.
“I think that would be a fair statement,” said Pattee. He noted the additional money is expected to come out of the $32 million in district bond funds, the source for much of the building’s construction. If needed, though, some of the money could come from the physical plant and equipment levy.