July 3, 2020

Good News for EP. New EPHS $2.8M under budget, on-time & looking good!

GMP - Guaranteed Maximum Price under budget

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The good news that the Cahoon – Monteiro led building committee has just released, seems to now ensure a great physical and academic EPHS for the foreseeable future and beyond.

In November of 2018, East Providence voters overwhelmingly approved construction of a $189.5 million state of the art high school. The new EPHS will replace the near 70-year-old building on Pawtucket avenue. The current building, while deceiving in its decent outward appearance and inside renovations, had outlived its usefulness according to many with knowledge of the building infrastructure. Plumbing was inaccessible, adding technology would be cumbersome and expensive, the HVAC system was very inefficient, and classrooms were tired. While a case could be made by some that deferred maintenance through the years added to the school’s plight, that fact didn’t outweigh the general obsolescence of the campus. City voters agreed it was time for a new EPHS. It is currently the only new high school construction in Rhode Island.

Tonight, June 23, 2020, the East Providence School Committee accepted the recommendation of the building committee which sets the project Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) at $154,388.87 million. This rate is $6 million under original cost estimates and comes in at $2.8 million under budget. Items previously removed such as field turf and lighting have been added back to the project.

City Councilman and former School Committee member Nathan Cahoon co-chaired the building committee with School Committee member Joel Monteiro. The co-chairs were reached for comment after the meeting. “This is great, great news for the City of East Providence,” said Nate Cahoon. “East Providence is building a brand new high school. The new high school is state of the art. It is safe. It is secure, modern, flexible, sustainable and efficient. It is as remarkable in appearance as it is in function. It will be the centerpiece of our City’s renaissance for the next several generations,” Cahoon added.

The GMP as proposed by Gilbane Building Company not only sets the value of the school’s construction through completion, it also formalizes the schedule for all activities, and finalizes the effort’s scope. Following are key highlights of this historic agreement as stated by the building committee:

The building will deliver everything that was promised. From the earliest days of design, through budgeting and State approval, through the vote East Providence residents took to finance this enormous enterprise, the most critical concern has always been getting the building that our students, faculty and staff need, and that our community deserves. With the approval of the GMP, that promise has been fulfilled. The new East Providence High School will feature all of the classrooms, career and technical space, science labs, artistic facilities, fields and gymnasiums that Townies demanded.

The building will be completed on time. The old high school, beloved though it may be, has long since passed its useful life. From the outset, project leaders have worked to “fast track” the new construction project because no one can predict when Alma Mater will experience its final, cataclysmic failure. With the approval of the GMP, we can state with certainty that the new building will be ready in time for the 2021-22 school year…again, as promised. Also – as promised – installation of all new fields, and the demolition and removal of the old building will be complete in time for the 2022-23 school year.

The building will be completed UNDER budget. The GMP sets the guaranteed price that the owner (East Providence) shall pay for the effort. And we’re ecstatic to report that this price is approximately $2.8M less than we have programmed, planned, and scheduled for. You may recall that in an effort to get under budget at the 75% construction document stage, the building committee was forced to convert several on-campus fields from turf to grass and abandon the on-field lighting. The GMP INCLUDES the price to install all turf fields on-campus, and includes lighting for those fields. Additionally, the GMP projects that the building will complete with a Minority-owned / Woman-owned Business Enterprise (M/WBE) participation rate of close to 16%, exceeding the state-required goal of 10% in all state-funded procurements.

“We’re all accustomed to large, Government sponsored projects running over budget, over schedule and delivering less than promised. So what’s gone right with this effort? Well, certainly the project has enjoyed an enormous amount of support from state and city leaders. And our architect (Ai3), construction manager (Gilbane), owner’s project manager (Peregrine) and host of trade professionals have performed in exemplary fashion. But know that there is a group of women and men on our building committee who have volunteered their time, lent their tremendous expertise and worked tirelessly to bring this building to life,” stated Cahoon and Monteiro. The project is designed by Ai3 Architects. Gilbane Building Company is the Construction Manager at Risk, and Peregrine Group, in partnership with CGA Project Management, is serving as the Owner’s Project Manager. Building committee members listed in alphabetical order are:

Steve Amoroso; Kathy Crowley; Craig Enos; Anthony Feola; Sandy Forand; John McNamee; Gene Oakland; Benjamin Russell; Nick Shattuck; Manny Vinhateiro; Shani Wallace; and Bob Weygand.

Cahoon and Monteiro stressed that the project has been a group effort with credit to be shared. “If you see any of these amazing Townies about town, please take a moment to thank them for their service. They represent everything right about democracy and Government. They are the reason we’re on track,” said the co-chairs.

A finance administrator with Gilbane Building cited the work of the building committee and the weekly meeting schedule of the group. “I think this may be the only large project we’ve worked on that had a community group meeting weekly to keep schedules and tasks in order. It was a great group and a key reason that we have a great GMP and are well under the bond budget,” said the Gilbane official.


PARTIAL HISTORY OF THE PROJECT
A feasibility study conducted in 2017 affirmed that the district would have to spend at least $100 million just to bring the high school up to code. That estimate included no investments in the Career and Technical Center building, no improvements to athletic fields, and no changes to the layout of the building to meet today’s educational standards.

Engineers also found that most classrooms have only one electrical outlet, which greatly limits the use of instructional technology. The facility is not energy efficient or compliant with security best practices. Faulty heating systems require some classrooms to be closed on cold days. The study further stated that the building has original HVAC and electrical components, for which spare parts are no longer available.

In November of 2018, the community of East Providence overwhelmingly approved a bond issue, not to exceed $189.5M, to build a new high school. The only new high school being built in Rhode Island in recent memory.

In June of 2019, Governor Gina M. Raimondo and other state and local officials joined students, parents, educators, and community members in a groundbreaking ceremony for the new High School. The ceremony marked the start of construction on the $189.5-million project, one of the largest to receive funding under the State’s School Construction Program. The 304,000-square-foot, four-story facility, with capacity for 1,600 students in grades 9-12, will open in 2021. Officials hailed it as a state- of-the-art, comprehensive high school that will serve as an example for school districts throughout New England.

“This ceremony marks a critical milestone in our journey to transform this historic high school and build a bright future for this community,” said Kathryn M. Crowley, Superintendent of Schools. “The new East Providence High School will provide our students and staff academic, athletic, and enrichment spaces in which to innovate, experiment, and thrive,” said Crowley at the groundbreaking.

“The groundbreaking is a sign of progress not just for East Providence, but for all of Rhode Island,” said Governor Raimondo. “This exciting investment in state-of-the-art facilities and hands-on learning experiences will help prepare East Providence students for jobs of the future."

Sixth grade students from Riverside and Martin middle schools in East Providence attended the ceremony, representing the Class of 2025, the first group of students who will spend all four years of high school in the new building.

The new building will feature 45 core academic classrooms, 10 science labs, two greenhouses, a Library Media Resource Center, and performing arts and music spaces, including a 900-seat auditorium. Academic spaces are designed to align instruction in core subject areas with Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs – including Culinary Arts, Allied Health, Graphic Arts, Construction Technology, Forensic Science, Radio and Television Broadcasting, and others – which will be expanded and enhanced in the new facility.

The campus also will feature new fitness and athletic facilities, including a gymnasium with basketball courts and a walking track, which will be available to the community. Sports facilities will include a new synthetic turf football stadium and regulation track, halftime facility, tennis courts, and new fields for softball, baseball, and lacrosse.

The new school is designed to meet Northeast Collaborative for High Performance Schools (NE- CHPS) design guidelines. The sustainable design both optimizes energy usage and improves energy efficiency.

The total cost of building the new East Providence High School is set not to exceed $189.5 million, including all demolition costs. The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) has determined that $135.6 million of the East Providence project is eligible for State reimbursement. State reimbursement on that amount is expected to be 74.4 percent, assuming the project satisfies all eligible “incentives,” as defined in the statewide bond referendum. If the project achieves maximum reimbursement, the impact on the residential tax rate will be approximately $0.76 per $1,000 assessed. The average assessment for a single-family home in East Providence is $170,578. At that assessment, the corresponding tax impact is approximately $130 per year, or $11 per month according to city finance officials.

A statewide bond issue was also approved in November of 2018 which promised close to 74% reimbursement to East Providence taxpayers. Some in the community have questioned whether the city will see that reimbursement due to state finance difficulty. “It’s important for the community to know that the current state budget uncertainty will have no impact on the state's incentive program and general obligation construction bond,” said State Representative Gregg Amore. “That program is embedded in statute and is not associated with the projected general revenue shortfall. The state is obligated to pay their share of the bond as previously structured,” added Amore.

“It’s a sad day in East Providence when your building is the accreditation problem, not the instruction,” said a former Superintendent of Schools in 2014 referring to a school ratings report at that time. “NEASC has no concerns with our instruction. They want a financing plan for capital expense.”

The good news that the Cahoon – Monteiro led building committee has just released, seems to now ensure a great physical and academic EPHS for the foreseeable future and beyond.


(Much of the information in this article was provided by high school building committee co-chairs, Joel Monteiro, EPHS Class of 1989, East Providence School Committee Member At Large and Nate Cahoon, EPHS Class of 1993, East Providence City Council Member for Ward 3. They stress that the entire committee shares in any credit for project success to date.)

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