With construction costs higher than estimated, voters in the Gilbert Unified School District may not see all of the projects completed as they were outlined in a 2005 bond election.
Voters approved a $107.5 million bond in November, as well as a $12.6 million budget override, for new school construction, renovations to existing schools and district facilities, and to upgrade buses.
But many of the projects are coming in over last year’s estimates, and administrators now find themselves with $87 million in projects remaining and just over $51 million to complete them.
The district governing board met in a work study session earlier this week to discuss how to proceed.
One suggestion: Prioritize the construction projects, and go for another bond in a couple of years to fund what’s left.
“It’s now impossible to build construction projects with estimates of even a year ago,” Superintendent Brad Barrett said.
The bulk of the discussion was centered around what to do about a new high school and elementary school.
The high school was originally estimated to cost $15 million, but more recent estimates put the cost at $28 million. A new elementary school is estimated at $7.8 million.
A new high school would relieve crowding at Mesquite High School, but district administrators do not expect more growth within Mesquite’s attendance boundaries.
A new elementary school would relieve crowding at Spectrum Elementary School and accommodate new growth in the area.
Barrett said moving forward with the elementary school also could help the district avoid complex busing routes, and it could become a school of choice — a school that draws students from all over the district rather than a specific neighborhood.
Board member Helen Hollands said the board had some tough decisions to make. She had concerns that a school of choice wouldn’t necessarily relieve the crowding at Spectrum.
The board directed district administrators to look into building an elementary school without the stipulation that it’s a school of choice.
Parent Jennifer Oxspring, who has children in Spectrum Elementary, South Valley Junior High and Mesquite High School, said the high school has been overcrowded for a long time.
“When I voted for the bond, that was one of the items on there — that instead of waiting until 2009, 2010, it would be 2007,” Oxspring said. “Now it’s being put on the back burner again.”