Charter school receives helping hand from district

ADA upgrades on new facility prove costly
By: Gloria Beverage, Placer Herald Editor
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While the typical time frame for building a school is three years, Western Sierra Collegiate Academy parents and leaders managed to transform a building into a high school campus in 10 weeks. Last Thursday evening, Superintendent Dr. David Patterson updated members of the Parent School Partnership on the work that has gone into developing a campus for Rocklin’s charter high school. The project team began the search for a facility and a financing partner in February 2011 with the goal of opening the high school in September, he explained. “Virtually all available sites in Rocklin had been previously reviewed when the building at 660 Menlo came on the market,” he said. The two-story, 77,300-square-foot building had the best potential for transformation into a school facility with large, open areas that could be converted into classrooms and plenty of natural lighting as well as acreage to build athletic fields, Patterson noted. With the assistance of the Public Facilities Investment Corporation, negotiations on the purchase of the building as well as obtaining tax-exempt financing began in April. With an occupancy deadline of Sept. 6, the project team signed a contract with general contractor Rudolph & Sletten on June 9. When bond sales and transactions were completed on June 23, the academy received $10,440,000 to cover purchase of the building ($4,520,264), construction ($3,263,110) and the cost of furniture, fixtures and equipment ($100,000). An additional $2,000,917 covered financial reserves and capitalized interest and $307,707 went to pay the bond issuance fees. With funding in place, construction on the building started the same day. Even though the contractors encountered some minor challenges (delays in delivery of steel), Phase 1 was completed in time for the opening of school. “Everybody ran full speed to get the facility finished,” Dr. Patterson said. Over the next six weeks, the project team took time “to catch our breath” and began reviewing expenditures and change orders with an eye toward finishing the building. However, cost overruns ($45,713), design changes ($37,280) and unexpected ADA site compliance requirements ($217,817) as well as other change orders ate into the funds needed to finish the building. In the years since the building was built, Patterson acknowledged, ADA requirements changed, resulting in underestimated allowances in the architect’s original plans. In order to complete the next two phases of work on the facility, the academy will need an estimated $472,969, Patterson noted. One of the first steps will be to negotiate a payment plan with the general contractor for work to complete the next two phases over the next two years. The additional classroom space is critical to grow the academy. Enrollment is currently at 325 students, but the goal is to have 540 students on campus. “If we can open phase two, that would allow us to get 540,” Patterson said. “We would have to have multipurpose classrooms.” The Rocklin Unified School District Board of Trustees, which oversees the charter school, has also offered an in-lieu agreement to the charter school. The district is offering $1.4 million (made in installments over the next four years) in Proposition 39 funds for infrastructure work, said Rocklin Unified School District Trustee Wendy Lang. In return, she continued, the charter school will be required to keep its payments for the other schools current and pay any outstanding debts to the general contractor. David George, the father of three students who have attended the charter schools for seven years, went to last week’s meeting to learn more about the project. “This has been a 10-year journey,” George said. “This isn’t even the hardest challenge we’ve faced. There are going to be a lot more going forward, but there is no one issue that is going to make or break this school.”