Construction costs soar for Wekiva Elementary

- Seminole County's School District wants to renovate Wekiva Elementary School, but in order to do so, they will have to find a new contractor. The District fired it's contractor today after costs soared to a level the Board and staff found to be unacceptable. District Executive Operations Director Joe Ranaldi says most everything at the school is in line for remodeling.

"They've got about 51 thousand square feet, which is the majority of the building, are going to be renovated and remodeled."

Ranaldi tells Fox 35 Wekiva ES is an "open" classroom school, a concept the District no longer uses. The renovation will make the school more traditional with corridors and closed classrooms, including 21st Century technology.

"We are going to have interactive screens as opposed to projectors at this point right now which are a little higher up front, but they have a longer life span."

The budget was originally set for $6.4 million to renovate the school, but that cost has exploded to $9.8 million, a more than 30 percent increase. Ranaldi says it's not the technology that is hiking the cost for the District. It's the economy.

"Right now we are seeing a lot of activity out there. Subcontractors are being really selective on what they are bidding."

Construction contractors are not bidding as much on smaller jobs since there is so much work out there, or charging much higher prices because demand for services is up, and they can get more money doing other jobs. Ranaldi says the difficulty in renovating schools does not help.

"We've got staff, students, and parents on the site as well, so there's a lot of work they need to do to make sure that safety is job 1."

The District now plans to try and find a new contractor that will do the work for under $9 million dollars. The District says they should only have a minor delay of 30 to 60 days to complete the work, and still plan to debut the remodeled Wekiva Elementary School at the start of the 2017 school year.

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