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 Innovative Contract Helps Districts Get More Bang for Their Bucks

As students return to school in the Lemon Grove and Mountain Empire Unified school districts, they have some exciting new features on campus that were built as part of an innovative contract the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) facilities team helped create.

SDCOE’s Educational Facility Solutions Group helped the two school districts save time on a variety of construction projects by combining them into a larger design-build contract.

The new approach of combining smaller projects will help the SDCOE’s facilities team bring bigger contractors and more competition to small school districts, said Joanne Branch, school facility planning coordinator with SDCOE.

“Given the size of our district, it is a luxury to have access to the SDCOE’s Facilities Joint Powers Authority (JPA) as an incredible resource for school construction procurement, project management, school construction finance software, design build methods, and most importantly, a guaranteed maximum price so we have the peace of mind that our construction projects will be completed within budget,” said Gina Potter, deputy superintendent for the Lemon Grove School District.   

The contract for the two school districts includes more than $9 million in projects, including new physical education facilities, modernization of the district’s central kitchen, and new wireless infrastructure at schools in Lemon Grove as well as new roofs and playground paving for schools in the Mountain Empire district.

One of the projects that finished recently was to rebuild the physical education area at the Lemon Grove Academy Middle School campus. This included adding a track, redoing the entrance, laying new asphalt, and replacing some of the areas for specific sports.

“Our new PE classroom is second to none,” said Kevin Keefe, a physical education teacher at the school. “I just walked out to the blacktop to take it all in, and I got goose bumps.”

Mount Vernon Elementary School in Lemon Grove added three portable classrooms and a restroom for students in grades 7 and 8 as part of the contract.

In the Mountain Empire district students started the year at Descanso, Clover Flat, and Campo elementary schools with completely new asphalt on their playgrounds. At Mountain Empire High School, students are returning to a new girls softball field, which was also part of the work in the contract.

SDCOE’s Educational Facility Solutions Group provides full project-planning and construction-delivery services and also works with districts throughout the county to help them get state funding for modernization and construction projects.

“By partnering with another school district and bundling a number of smaller construction projects, the Facilities JPA provided our district with access to a design-build model, which allowed for high-quality construction by school-construction experts,” Potter said.

Photo: Lemon Grove Academy Middle School's new athletic area