South City school building plan proceeds: Timeline offered for existing work, but uncertainty about final round of building: REBROADCAST SMDJ Austin Walsh

South San Francisco, Ca  July 7, 2016 by Austin Walsh San Mateo Daily Journal Rebroadcast

South San Francisco school officials have charted a new course for finishing ongoing construction financed through the district’s troubled bond measure, but the strategy does not account for completing the final leg of proposed projects.

South San Francisco Unified School District officials plan to spend from a $13.5 million construction budget to complete work at Buri Buri Elementary and Parkway Middle schools over the coming two years, according to a district report.

But still reeling from discovering officials had overspent the $162 million bond to the tune of $11 million, no clear vision remains for how the district plans to carry out the third and final leg of promised work.

Citing shoddy craftsmanship and multiple delayed projects, officials fired the previous builder at Buri Buri Elementary School and elected to move ahead under the guidance of a new construction management firm, which will oversee and coordinate completion of the campus renovation.

But there will be no building as promised this summer on the campuses of Martin, Los Cerritos and Sunshine Gardens elementary schools, while officials search for ways to finance the entire final phase of proposed work, according to an email from district spokesman Ryan Sebers.

“Next steps will be to begin the process of planning and assembling the team for construction. However, there will be no construction on the Martin campus this summer,” he said. “As for Los Cerritos and Sunshine Gardens, there are no plans this summer to do any construction. The district is assessing the budget and will make determinations for both sites in the future; but currently, there are no plans for any construction.”

The bond, passed by voters in 2010, initially aimed to spread construction projects throughout the district campuses to renovate and refurbish classrooms and school facilities. But a spending shortfall discovered by a independent auditor stalled the building plan, and left district officials scrambling to readjust their vision.

The financial situation, which was blamed largely in the audit on former bond director Larry Scott, still resonates through the district. Officials recently passed a budget with projected deficit in coming years, due in part to transferring $11 million to account for the construction spending gap.

Despite the gloomy district financial forecast and tormented history of the bond, officials have offered the community some clarity regarding when to expect the existing construction work will be finished.

Under a recently proposed timeline, an ongoing phase of construction at Parkway Heights Middle School and a pending following round of building to modernize classrooms should be completed by the end of next year.

To enhance safety and improve access for students around campus at Buri Buri Elementary School, as well as complete a playground and other field work, construction will continue through the end of the year, according to the timeline.

Concurrently, officials will set the stage for construction of a new multipurpose building and library at the campus, with the expectation to begin construction early next year which should continue until the beginning of 2018, according to the timeline.

Officials also hope to begin work on field grading projects at the school in the second half of next year, with the expectation of transitioning into building of portable classrooms for before and after-school programs in early 2018, according to the timeline.

The proposed construction program would bring to an end a contentious round of building at Buri Buri Elementary School which has frustrated some locals.

Earlier this year, tensions generated by perceptions of inadequate work at the campus came to a head when residents directed their disgust with the projects toward district officials during a community meeting.

Despite the previous frustrations of residents, Superintendent Shawnterra Moore said in an email officials will remain committed to keeping the South San Francisco community educated regarding any development of future plans for the pending projects.

“Stakeholder involvement is critical and important to us; therefore, we will continue to involve the site leaders and their site teams throughout the process to ensure we are inclusive of their feedback and to make sure they are kept well-informed,” she said.

(650) 344-5200 ext. 105

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