KILGORE — Kilgore ISD Superintendent Andy Baker says he could make a recommendation by the end of this month on a construction firm related to 2021 bond projects.
Trustees recently discussed progress on plans to build a new high school and carry out improvements at the district’s football stadium and elementary school.
Kilgore voters approved two bonds totaling $113 million in November, and the funds are slated to be used to build a new Kilgore High School and renovate and repair R.E. St. John Stadium and Chandler Elementary School.
“The bottom line is, we’re rolling,” Baker told board members.
A great deal of interest has been generated by the district’s requests for bids, he said, and trustees will be able to review applications from construction firms. Trustees then choose finalists for the project and interview the firms. Baker said he could make a recommendation to the board by the end of January.
The Chandler Elementary project will focus on renovating the decades-old campus to be more energy-efficient with new HVAC systems, windows and other features. Baker told trustees that a campus walk-through had revealed the planned renovations would not require as many new window as initially thought because many classrooms already have newer, double-pane windows installed.
“The project went from replacing all those campus windows to now we’re replacing, give or take, about half of those classroom windows,” Baker said. “We’re going to have (contractors) come back in and retouch every window even if it’s one of the good ones, look at the outside, reseal it, the whole nine yards while they’re here, but that’s how the project look a little turn for the better.”
Baker said the Chandler project could be completed by the start of the next school year, and much of the work, especially installing new HVAC units, could be completed over spring break and on evenings and weekends.
The R.E. St. John project will include the addition of ADA accessibility upgrades and may also include new bathroom facilities, concession stands, a ticket booth and a “halftime house” for student-athletes. The stadium is also slated to receive new turf on the playing field, though that item is covered by a standard budget item, not the $4 million allotted for stadium improvements from the bond package. Baker said the new turf installation will begin this summer after graduation.
Baker also discussed the prospect of hiring an internal construction manager to oversee the high school construction project. As part of the request for quote process, firms applying for the construction contract must provide their own manager, but Baker said some larger school districts working on more complex bond issues hired their own internal manager.
“I don’t think we need one, and I’m not recommending we have one, but I didn’t want to just not talk about it,” he said.
“We’ve got some very qualified guys. Your HVAC guys, your electricians, your plumbers, they’re top-notch. They’re available to look over plans and work along with us. They’re top-notch people. I feel confident that, even out of the companies that have already called and got an RFQ, there are some solid construction companies right there that have extremely good reputations. I honestly don’t think we need it but I wanted to bring it up,” Baker said.
Plans for the actual layout of the new high school are still in progress, Baker said, and district administrators have held multiple meetings with architects to discuss possible building plans. The plan has to take into account the number of classrooms needed and how many students the district expects to enroll in future years.
The plan involves demolishing much of the original high school structure, which was first built nearly 100 years ago, and building a new, modern campus structure in its place. Initial plans for the new campus call for a three-story primary structure with multiple academic wings, as well as a new gym, auditorium and other campus structures. However, the actual layout for the new construction is not yet finalized and is still being worked out in meetings with architects.
If all goes according to plan, the district is projecting a three-year building phase, which could see a new high school completed and ready to open by the end of 2024. However, Baker has said that is only an estimate, and unforeseen delays, especially amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, could easily add six months to the timeline.
KISD has set up a website with information about the bond and work planned for the future at www.kilgoreisdbond2021.com.