With estimates over budget, Dubuque Community School District opens bids for school expansion

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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- The Dubuque Community School District has begun taking bids for a new expansion at one of its schools, but estimates are over budget.

After designs came back from architects this week, the school board in Dubuque opened bids to contractors in the area to determine the future of an expansion to the Alta Vista Campus.

The project, which was approved for design plans in November 2017 was estimated at $6 million, an amount the school board had budgeted for. Those with the school district said they set aside $5 million for "hard" construction costs, and $1 million for "soft" costs like architects, furnishings, etc.

Once the designs came back, the architects said the construction alone is estimated at $5.7 million- $700,000 over budget, meaning between other contracts and furnishing, the school board may need to put forth more money than they originally expected.

"The overall budget of $6 million still remains," said Bill Burkhart, Manager of Buildings and Grounds for the Dubuque Community School District. "With $5.7 million being on hard costs, it'll be up to the board to decide where we go from here after the bids are received."

Those with the school board have said in the past the construction of an addition to the school could actually make more financial sense than what is currently done for students taught off-campus.

Currently, the district, and therefore the taxpayers, pay about $1 million per year in rent for off-campus facilities.

So the expansion would consolidate rent and staff costs, as well as bring the programs to one building.

"The Alta Vista Campus will pick up that additional programming and student needs," Burkhart said. "It'll be on one property, it will have a half-gym that will be able to serve both programs there. The classroom layout, the security enhancements are all going to make that a very nice, safe environment."

In November 2017, Director of Student Services for the Dubuque Community School District Shirley Horstman said, "I think we can have more robust programs if we have everything in one location."

"I also think it allows us to better group students for educational reasons," Horstman said. "And of course, one administrator, counselor, nurse, some of the positions that we currently have two of can be consolidated into one position."

The plans for the expansion include a half-gym, a new cafeteria, and 16 classrooms to the three-story expansion.

Burkhart said the school board will accept bids until July 11. They plan to award a bid on August 6, with construction beginning only weeks later, anticipating an "aggressive" but realistic August 2019 opening.