Salina USD 305 opens doors to new facilities and enhanced opportunities for students
Salina Schools USD 305 faced a problem common in education—the district’s schools desperately needed upgrades. How could they best provide opportunities for current and future students?
A $110 million bond was approved that would tackle 16 different school projects in the district. Two of these projects—Central and South high schools—were incredibly complex.
“The flavor of the two projects is quite a bit different, but I think both of them were equally complicated in different ways,” said Kris Upson, Director of Operations for Salina Public Schools.
Constructed in 1950, Central High hadn’t received many updates since then. The school’s administration wanted to keep its historic feel while offering modern features. This required substantial renovations.
The project at South High required demolition and new construction. This included creating a new main entry for increased security that would improve flow of students and create a check-in area for visitors.
Although every effort was made to conduct work during summer months, some construction took place while school was in session, which meant safely maneuvering around the student and faculty population, while keeping the project on track.
McCownGordon was selected to serve as the construction manager at-risk for both projects and collaborated with the school district, DLR Group of Lenexa as the main architect, and Jones Gillam Renz of Salina as the local architecture firm. Additionally, they worked hand-in-hand with numerous subcontractors throughout the projects (26 months for Central High and 34 months for Salina South).
“It was a giant collaborative effort from top to bottom making sure that this thing went as smoothly as possible,” said Matt Hohn, senior superintendent at McCownGordon.
Adding value throughout the process
Across the two projects there were 29 phases of construction, some of which were broken down into sub-phases. Phases often overlapped with one another with anywhere from seven to 10 phases happening at a given time.
During every phase and at every level, McCownGordon suggested cost-saving measures. Very rarely does one item result in the kind of savings that many smaller elements combined can. From flooring to tiling to walls to strategic painting, these measures added up to substantial savings.
“At the end of the day, [their changes] made for a cushion in our construction that allowed us to do some things at the end of the project we thought we weren’t going to be able to afford at the beginning, which is a nice way to end a project on a very positive note,” Upson said.
That approach was part of value proposition McCownGordon brought to the table.
“School districts typically go after the lowest bid. We did not do that in this case because we took the best value concept to heart,” Upson said. “Best value doesn’t necessarily mean the cheapest. But with McCownGordon, I can tell you that all their ducks are in a row. They’ll show you where all the money is going and they will explain the process to you as you go through it.”
In addition to full transparency of budget, McCownGordon was solution-driven. When team members come across issues, they presented the district with options on how to address them.
“McCownGordon had our best interest in mind as a school district by always presenting solutions to the inevitable problems that are in construction,” Upson said. “They hit all their marks, over 20 of them, every time…. I, as an owner, never had a bad day and that’s a big deal.”
The project included:
- New auxiliary gym/FEMA shelter
- Media center / Library
- Computer labs
- Theater and drama classrooms
- Career and technical education classrooms
- Science classrooms
- Main lobby and common areas
- Administrative offices
- Upgraded gym, pools and locker rooms
Upson credits the McCownGordon team with executing such a smooth project.
“The staff was great—every single one of them—and that’s impressive,” he said.
Involving the school community
On top of overseeing the construction, McCownGordon helped get students involved by facilitating STEM learning whenever possible. Students from the woods class created letters for signage. Hohn even helped lead some units on construction, introducing students to different careers within the field such as trades, advertising, operations, and leadership.
“We tried to get everyone involved in the process, so the bond project wasn’t something that happened to everyone, but that they were involved in,” Upson said.
On the surface, the buildings look fantastic, but the result has been more than stunning facilities. The project provided opportunities for the students they wouldn’t have had otherwise.
“These projects have had a huge impact on the community,” Upson said. “We added career and technical educational programs we would not have been able to add had we not done these projects. [We created] really unique and neat opportunities for kids in certified nursing assistance, in audiovisual technology, construction, welding—lots of different programs.”
In addition to the two high schools that were part of the bond, the school district hired McCownGordon to work on a separate project upgrading the stadium where both high schools compete.