Is PWCS Inflating Construction Costs?

Loudoun County awarded a bid to build their next high school for $64 million. Stafford County awarded a bid to build their next high school for $59 million.  PWCS projects that it will  cost $100 million, excluding the pool, to build their next high school.  The schools will house approximately the same number of students and the bids were awarded or will be awarded within 5 months of one another.

Why is PWCS projecting nearly $40 million more for a high school than Loudoun and Stafford’s actual cost?

Both the Superintendent Walts and Chairman Johns have expressed concerns that lower than expected tax increases could jeopardize the 13th and 14th high schools.  Superintendent Walts said, in a letter to Supervisor John Jenkins that was published by The Sheriff of Nottingham, “While the 12th high school remains under the ceiling, the debt necessary for the out-years of the CIP, including the 13th and 14th high schools, will likely cause the debt ceiling to be exceeded.”   In a article published by Bristow Beat, Chairman Johns was quoted as saying, “If the 13th high school is in jeopardy, I believe we will need to look at scaling back or canceling other construction projects in the county. We may also need to ‘value engineer’ the 12th and 13th high schools.”

Based on their comments and presentations by finance staff with the school division, it appears that the school division may not be able to build the 13th or 14th high schools because the county’s debt ceiling will not be sufficient. The 13th high school, which is expected to be completed in 2019, will relive overcrowding at Battlefield and Patriot high schools.  Patriot High school will be close to 1000 students overcapacity in the fall.  Battlefield is currently about 400 students overcapacity with rising enrollment.

The 12th high school, which will be located immediately adjacent to the landfill beside the now closed for heath reasons Lacrosse fields, will go out to bid in a few weeks with a scheduled opening in the fall of 2016.  The school will be 320,000 – 370,000 square feet, will will use the most energy efficient systems, designs, and materials possible, will be LEED certified, and will house 2,053 students.  School division staff estimate that it will cost $111 million to build the school – $100 million for the school and $10.5 million for an indoor pool.

Loudoun just awarded a bid to build their next high school in February.  The school will be 285,000 square feet, will use the most energy efficient systems, designs, and materials possible, will be LEED certified, and will house 1,800 students.  The bid was awarded to HESS Construction for $63,520,051.

Stafford just awarded a bid to build their next high school in April.  The school will be 289,000 square feet, will use the most energy efficient systems, designs, and materials possible, and will house 2,000 students.  The bid was awarded to HESS Construction for $$58,645,000.

While the PWC school will be larger than the other two schools, either in square feet per student or number of students, $40 million for 200 more students simply isn’t reasonable.

Could PWCS staff be inflating the projected construction cost of this high school, and why would they do so?

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One Response to “Is PWCS Inflating Construction Costs?”

  1. pwceducationreform Says:

    Someone asked me how the cost per square foot and square feet per pupil compared between the three schools

    – For Loudoun, their next high school will cost $223 per square foot and each student will have 158 square feet.

    – For Stafford, their next high school will cost $203 per square foot and each student will have 145 square feet.

    – For Prince William, their next high school will cost $313 per square foot and each student will have 156 square feet.

    That means that Loudoun’s cost per square foot is lower than Prince William’s with greater square feet per pupil.

    Using Loudoun’s cost per square feet and PWCS’s total square feet, that means that PWCS should expect construction bids for the 12th high school, excluding the pool and site work, to be in the $72 – $73 million range, not $100 million as is advertised.


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