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Rowe school project OK’d, open to bids

RANCHO SANTA FE — The project managers overseeing the modernization of R. Roger Rowe School had good news for the Rancho Santa Fe School District board of directors at the June 3 meeting. Earlier that day, the project received approval from the Division of the State Architect, or DSA, which provides design and construction oversight for all kindergarten through grade 12 schools and community colleges.
The DSA authorization means bids on the main construction work can now be fine-tuned, a process that could take about three to four weeks. Once that is complete, a list of recommended contractors will be presented to the board, hopefully by late June, Katy Wright, project manager from Gafcon construction consulting, said.
The bad news was Wright and her colleague, Tim Ireland, expected DSA approval in April, meaning the new facility could be ready for students by the first day of school in fall 2010.
“I’m reluctant to say for sure that we can’t do it,” Ireland said. “But we lost a couple of months.”
The contract will be awarded to the best-qualified company that provides the lowest bid for the $34.5 million project. With the slowdown in the building industry due to the weakened economy, board members asked if that estimate could go down.
Ireland said that while he had heard stories of other schools saving money because contractors are hungry for work, he didn’t expect that to happen at R. Roger Rowe.
“Those schools are a different animal,” Ireland said. “This is a pretty compact project.”
Ireland also cautioned against telling contractors they will be awarded the job if they reduce their bids.
“I’d stay away from bid shopping,” he said. “It’s a bad message to send and you could lose the best qualified contractor. It’s a dangerous road to go down.”
Demolition of the existing structure was scheduled to begin June 9, four days after the end of the school year. Ireland said all buildings should be completely demolished sometime during the first week of July. “We’re asking the community to bear with us during that time,” board members said.
Beginning in the early 1920s, Rancho Santa Fe students attended classes first in the old toy shop, then in a newly constructed building across the street and finally in a schoolhouse two blocks away that is now home to the Association offices. Back then it was known as Rancho Santa Fe School.
In 1955, seven classrooms were built on the current 10-acre site. Three years later, the district hired a sixth-grade teacher, R. Roger Rowe, who was promoted to superintendent in 1964.
Through the years, more classrooms were added and in 1971, the middle school opened, marking the first time all nine K-8 grades were together on one campus. When Rowe retired in 2001, the school was renamed to honor his 40-plus years of service to the district.
As enrollment grew, a search for a new site began, but two bond measures to build a school failed and land acquisition attempts were unsuccessful. A decision was made to build a new school on the existing lot. In February 2008, with more than 70 percent of the vote, a bond measure to fund the project passed.
The new school will feature two- and three-story state-of-the art buildings with increased parking. A campaign to fund a multipurpose performing arts building is just getting under way. The school will be able to accommodate 850 students, an enrollment increase of about 100.
Although he will still try to make that September date, Ireland said it is more likely the facility will be ready for move-in by December 2010. Until then, instruction will take place in portable classes. But as history has shown, Rancho Santa Fe students are no strangers to attending school in a variety of classrooms.