BCBE accepts new bid for Orange Beach Middle/High School
Parents can attend Dec. 12 public meeting to ask questions, hear details
By Fran Thompson
As expected, after adjusting the timeline for completion of the project, the Baldwin County Board of Education was able to find contractors willing to bid for the new Orange Beach Middle/High School, and unanimously approved a construction contract with Sharp, Inc for just over $26 million at its November 16 meeting.
The BCBE extended the timeline for completed construction until June 1, 2020.
The school will be built on land donated by Orange Beach adjacent to the Orange Beach Sportsplex. The bid process was initially delayed after the lone bid for the project came in almost $20 million over expected cost projections last month.
Thrash Contractors’ $42.7 million bid was so far removed from the school system’s estimate for the project that the School Board had little choice but to unanimously vote to table the issue earlier in November.
Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon has scheduled a public meeting to answer questions about the transition to the new school at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 12 at the Orange Beach Community Center. All parents are highly encouraged to attend. Childcare will be provided.
“At this time we are looking to create a portable village, for lack of a better term, located at the elementary school and recreation center property housing 7th thru 9th grades for the school year 2019/2020,’’ said Mayor Kennon.
The tight construction timeline in a tight labor market, especially with the Florida Panhandle rebuilding after Hurricane Michael, and a unique architectural design led to the lone high bid during the first go around.
“This is a building that will serve generations of students, so we will go through the process in a methodical manner,’’ said BCSD Superintendent Eddie Tyler.
The independent school system in Gulf Shores starts in August of 2019. The city has already appointed a school board and hired a superintendent.
“(Gulf Shores) Mayor Craft has reached out and said he will help in any way he could,’’ Kennon said.
“The 2019-2020 school year will be a year of change and anticipation for what’s coming. But it will be an excellent academic year because Baldwin County has incredible teachers who will be there for our students – wherever the classroom,’’ said O.B. school board member Norma Hoots Lynch said. “Let’s celebrate this for our students, staff, city, and county! I can’t wait to ring the bell.’’
The 700 seat Orange Beach Performing Arts Center, which the city is committed to building, will be bid separately.
Tyler said the plan for the new Orange Beach school is to use the second floor for middle school students and the first floor for high school students. Each will have its own principal.
Covering 130,000 square feet, the school will include 28 classrooms, two special needs classrooms, two middle school science labs, four high school science labs, a competition gym seating 736, a band room for 100 students, a choral room, a families and consumers sciences lab, a drivers education lab, an indoor dining cafeteria seating 300 and an outside pavilion/dining area seating 300.
As required by state law, BCSD already had a back-up plan if there was a delay in construction.
Meeting an August 2019 deadline for construction of the school was always going to be a tight window, Tyler said.
“There’s going to be a portable village,” Tyler said in September. “It will have to be architected and engineered and the state building commission has to bless it. It will be on the site of Orange Beach Elementary. It’s going to be worked where there’s not going to be any interaction with the elementary school.
“So there is going to be a village there, maybe 15 portables – something like that. And then we’ll transition them to the new high school. I know portables is a bad word sometimes, especially depends on what part of the county you live in, but we’re doing this for a purpose.”