GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP)  — The 2020 Bond proposal that provided $300 million for school-related projects, including the construction of dilapidated elementary and middle school campuses, won’t be enough to cover the full cost of the project, Guilford County School Board leaders said.  

The announcement was made by a county commissioner during a joint capital/facilities committee meeting Tuesday morning, in which school leaders, contractors and design individuals who have headed these projects outlined where the situation stood.

The bond will go to a variety of projects that will improve and enhance the safety and learning ability of students on site, including massive renovations at several campuses and the construction of new campuses for Kiser Middle School, Claxton Elementary School, Brooks Global Studies, Foust Elementary School, Peck Elementary School and Visual and Performing Arts Academy. All six of which will have ground broken on them in August.  

During the meeting on Tuesday, school leaders explained that while they have been issued $120 million of that bond money to get these projects this far, and with enough capital already in use to sustain the projects going forward for some time, it will not be enough to get them over the finish line.

“In my 30 years of doing this, we have never seen a market like we have today,” explained Kenneth Grube, who is with Samet Corporation, the group hired by GCS to oversee some of the design projects.  

He and others presented to commissioners the difficulties that are currently seen in the market right now, inflation being one of them.  

The cost of materials has increased. Steel mill equipment alone rose 128% since April of 2020, staffing for construction crews is still drastically short-staffed from where they were prior pandemic and the market is flooded with construction projects.  

“You’re actually having to innovate and find other ways to meet a schedule,” Grube said.

District leaders warned that this might be the situation back in June during one of its meetings.

During a school board meeting in June, Michelle Reed, the District’s COO, and said that while things were moving forward on the 2020 bond project, the hold-ups on the non-certified 2022 bond also caused delays in locking in prices for the material.

Reed explained, “Our county commissioners cannot move forward in approving our ordinances, even though we as a board have approved the project ordinances that we have approved, though we as a board have approved our two architects and program management firm. That is being held up from being issued actually as a fair process because our approved $1.7 billion school board are under appeal. Until it is certified, we cannot work with our county commissioners to issue and support our project ordinances. State laws require school districts to have the money in the bank before prior to starting construction and issuing contracts.”

She finished her statement in June with county commissioners who could not approve the ordinances for the 2020 bond projects due to the standstill on the $1.7 billion bond. Therefore, contractors could not lock in maximum rates for building materials.  

The $170 million extra is not a finalized number.  

County commissioners and school board members have asked that school leaders and designers look for ways to make changes to the school designs that could decrease the overall cost.  

Those changes include the ability to use substitute materials for items that are in high demand, spread out the rate at which future projects are approved and use similar designs are multiple school campuses for facilities that would not impact the overall learning of the students such as offices for principal, receptionist, etc. 

“It’s more challenging to standardize everything, but we can standardize many things,” said Jason Lembke with DLR Group. “There has been an effort on the district’s part and the design teams to look for those common threads that type the projects together and address them while also maintaining the important components.”

The county commissioner chairman said that the groundbreaking projects would continue as scheduled but that he wanted a map out of areas where costs would be made up as soon as possible.  

He also stressed that this will not impact taxpayers’ wallets and that there was room in the budget to anticipate situations like this.