By John L. Braese
VALE – Vale school officials decided Wednesday night to consider a dramatic change in plans for a new middle school – build it on the grounds of the existing school.
The decision came just days after the district’s architects submitted plans to the city of Vale to build the school on land adjacent to the Vale High School.
Steele Associates Architects now will evaluate the feasibility for building on the existing grounds, the Vale School Board learned at its meeting Wednesday night. The firm won’t charge the district for the new study.
“We should have the feasibility study within three weeks looking at moving the middle school to the site of the existing middle school,” said Vale Superintendent James Howard. “Steele agreed to complete the study free.”
Voters last fall approved a bond to build the new school, now estimated to cost about $11 million. Because construction costs have gone up, some features planned for the school have been eliminated.
The new school was scheduled to open Jan. 2019
Steele has also agreed to step down as project manager of the school construction. Steele originally signed a contract for an additional $75,000 to act as a manager under circumstances that raised questions with school officials. The firm has declined to respond to written questions about the matter.
According to district officials, Steele Associates will return $48,000 to the district.
According to Howard, Steele is maintaining the firm has acted in the role of manager and billed the district $27,000, money the district won’t get back.
The district is now considering using the $48,000 to hire a project manager, a person to oversee construction and manage both the architect and contractor.