3 contractors bid to oversee building of new high school by 2022; School board also looks ahead to strategic plan

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By Randi B. Hagi, contributor

The Harrisonburg City School Board now must interview and choose from three contractors vying to oversee the design and construction of the new high school to open in 2022, Interim Superintendent Patrick Lintner announced in Tuesday’s meeting.

The three proposals were submitted under procedures laid out by the Virginia Public-Private Education Facilities and Infrastructure Act of 2002, which allows general contractors to take a combined design/build approach. That can provide a more streamlined process to get a school built quicker by having one firm oversee both the architects and contractors, which can allow the firm to prepare the building site while the details of the blueprints are being worked out.

Under the law, contractors had a 45-day window to submit their proposals to the school board after they the board received one from Nielsen Builders, Inc. in February. That window closed on Monday, by which time two more firms had submitted proposals. School board members did not announce the names of the other two contractors.

“Every single proposal that we have in front of us has a timeline to open for 2022,” said Board Chair Deb Fitzgerald after the meeting. That timeline was necessary for them to be seriously considered, she said. All three proposals lay out a contractor, architect, and subcontractor partnership, all of whom are well-known in the community, Fitzgerald said.

The board will hold a special closed meeting on Thursday to review the proposals and decide which one, two, or all three to interview. Interviews will take place during the board’s April 16 work session, which will also be a closed meeting.

“The work now begins to discuss and digest and determine where we go from here,” Lintner said during the meeting.

Next big goal: Strategic plan

To add to an already full year that includes shepherding the new school construction and bringing in a new superintendent, the board voted unanimously to begin a strategic planning process this year by pursuing a contract with Cambridge Strategic Services based in Charlottesville, Va., — not to be confused with Cambridge Analytica, the English political consulting firm.

Lintner and Fitzgerald both praised Cambridge for how the firm’s employees made it clear that they valued community input in their process. Lintner and Fitzgerald attended a two-day workshop in Albemarle County along with Vice-chair Andy Kohen last September.

Fitzgerald said they liked “the fact that they are so intensely interested in what the stakeholders want” and that Cambridge pays just as much attention to follow through on the plan as creating the plan itself.

Preliminary meetings will start in June – about a month after the arrival of new Superintendent Michael Richards, who spoke with The Citizen last month about the importance of a strategic plan.

The bulk of the process will take place this fall, Fitzgerald said, adding that the board expects a final strategic plan ready for approval at the end of the fall semester.

Lintner wrapping up interim superintendent tenure

Tuesday evening was Lintner’s last appearance as interim superintendent in a public meeting. He will be returning to an administrative position for the city school district.

“I want to thank the city … for being such great supporters of our school division,” said Lintner, who also thanked the board, school administration, and his wife. Lintner said he felt “very privileged” to serve the students and staff of the community.

“I could not have had a successful year without two people in place,” he said, citing Lisa Knupp, secretary to the superintendent and clerk of the board, and Craig Mackail, assistant superintendent of operations and school safety.

“Lisa sees things before they are about to happen,” Lintner said of her professional foresight. And Mackail “keeps a lot of things afloat in our school division.”

Budget moving ahead

Lintner announced that the school district sent the city council its requested 2019 – 2020 school budget, which they will proceed to negotiate with the board.

He said that the total budget may be lowered by $70,000, not because of cuts, but because of savings from lowered transportation costs and repairing the Massanutten Technical Center roof during this current fiscal year.

Also at the meeting:

  • Zanetta Ford-Byrd, executive director of the Harrisonburg Education Foundation, gave a presentation on their eighth annual gala, a masquerade ball held on Feb. 16. The event raised $90,190 — more than $5,000 past their goal. The money will go to provide grants and scholarships for local students.
  • Principal Kathleen Taylor of Stone Spring Elementary School invited the community to participate in the Shenandoah Valley Autism Partnership’s 5k race on April 20 at Eastern Mennonite University. There are 36 students who receive autism-related services at Stone Spring through the city’s Elementary Autism Program, Taylor said. “It’s not just academics we work on … we really come together as a community to make sure our students are accepted, respected, and cared for.” Learn more about the race at https://valleyautism.wordpress.com/5k/.

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