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SJSD new school team meets with potential contractors

Project designers and developers met with area vendors to discuss the scope of the project should voters pass a $107 million bond on April 6.

Posted: Mar 30, 2021 11:08 PM
Updated: Mar 31, 2021 9:31 AM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) -- Potential contractors who could be hired to build a new high school in St. Joseph met with project leaders Tuesday afternoon to get a better idea of the job.

DLR Group and McCownGordon Construction organized the meeting. They've been working with the St. Joseph School District on putting plans on paper for what they say would be a one-of-a-kind facility for learning.

"It would be the new, future ready environment for education," said Kevin Greischar, an architect with DLR Group, a company that has designed hundreds of K-12 schools around the midwest and across the country."

Much of the discussion was how the plan converts the American Family campus in east St. Joseph into a new high school for 1,600 students and where would need to be done.

Chris Hess, a project executive with McCownGordon, would oversee the work. He stands behind the quality of other schools they have helped build.

"We do this for a living and we see the end result," Hess said. "To see the kids' faces when they come in to the space and the teachers, compared to what they had in the past, there's nothing better than seeing their faces."

For all the schools these firms have built over the years, they say the American Family project in St. Joseph is unique.

"Number one is schedule," Hess said. "If you look at having to build new construction in that whole envelope this project is about eight months faster than if we did a brand new greenfield. The second is cost. It's $6 million in savings. Long term, there's additional square footage that's available there that they can expand their programs without having to build brand new construction."

Hess said the meeting on Tuesday with local construction firms was important because they want to hire companies from the area as much as possible, some that have struggled during the Covid economic slowdown.

"It's a community project and the community is going to make the decision if they are going to invest in the School District," Hess said.

In the end, they say if the new school gets built, it will be something in which the community can be proud.

"I have no doubt that we can accomplish something special for this community at American Family," Hess said.

District administrators have said that about 75 percent of the $107 million bond that they are asking for approval on would go toward building the new high school. The rest would be for air conditioning at the three current high schools as well as some athletic facility renovations at Central.

Voters go to the polls to decide the fate of the bond on Tuesday, April 6.

Should 57 percent of St. Joseph voters say 'yes' to the plan, it would include repurposing Lafayette and Benton high schools as middle schools, close Bode Middle School and also close several grade schools as part of a consolidation effort.

Hess said that work on the American Family building could begin soon after the vote and be ready for students for the 2023-24 school year.

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