I write this letter for two purposes. To remind the community of a drop-in on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 and to correct misinformation in an Open Letter to the New Irmo News on Jan. 10, 2019.
We invite the District Five community to attend a drop-in style information event on Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 from 6pm to 7:30pm at the Center for Advanced Technical Studies to view the proposed designs for the new elementary school. Architects, construction managers and engineers will be available to answer questions from the public about the design plans. Display boards will be available for review. In addition to asking questions in person, members of the community will have the opportunity to provide written comments at this event. After the public event, the design plans will be on the District’s website, https://www.lexrich5.org/elementaryschool13. Questions and comments can be submitted through an online form on the Elementary School 13 webpage between Jan. 25, 2019 and Jan. 31, 2019 at which time the questions will be reviewed for patterns, compiled, answered and posted on the website.
In order to correct some incorrect information that was mentioned in an Open Letter to the Irmo News on Jan. 10, 2019 I will clarify some of the issues raised.
The intent is to clarify only to apprise the community of the correct information.
- School board members were told about a planned community meeting to present the designs and answer questions for the new elementary school at the Nov. 19, 2018 school board meeting. A specific date for the community meeting was sent to board members and to community members on Dec. 21, 2018 via the D5 Communications Update.
- As part of the architects’ original plans, individual board members will be given the opportunity to review the design boards and ask questions directly to the architects, construction manager and engineers prior to the Jan. 24, 2019 community drop-in.
- The architects’ standard practice is to present the design plan at the 15 percent completion level to be cost-effective, which was explained to the board members by the architect at the Nov. 19, 2018 school board meeting. The Feb. 11, 2019 school board meeting is the benchmark for the 15 percent completion level of the design work and scheduled presentation by the architects.
- District Five followed all South Carolina procurement laws for governmental entities in the selection of the architects and Construction Manager at Risk. The New Elementary School Selection Committee’s meeting dates, times, places, agenda and minutes were all properly posted on the district’s website over the
approximate 6 months of the process of advertising, qualifying, interviewing and ranking interested qualified vendors before the final selection of the highest ranked qualified vendors. The contracts were signed in December 2018. Both the architect and the Construction Manager at Risk are highly qualified and have a recent history of doing great work in District Five. Many other architects and construction companies also have recently done great work in District 5 throughout the course of the recently completed voter-approved Bond referendum. The procurement process is long, detailed and completely transparent to anyone interested in following the process.
- The make-up of the planning committee was not unlike the practice used by other businesses. The purpose of this group was to meet with architects, brainstorm academic space and needs and help create a design that meets the expectations of higher learning for the next generation of students.
Thus, the committee of 36 members was comprised of two board members, four community members, elementary school professionals to include teachers, counselors, principals, special area teachers, a media specialist, a school nurse and the district elementary school director. Other professional educators involved in the planning process included the safety officer and directors of transportation, food service, facilities, special needs programs, technology and top administrators responsible for finance, planning, communication, instruction and the superintendent. We gathered the experts who are the “boots on the ground” in our school district to learn from their experience and vision.
- The school district engaged the architects for a comprehensive schedule of planning and design, which is common practice. The architectural team had a great deal of preparation before the initial meetings and between the many other meetings to pull together a design that the public can view on Jan. 24, 2019. Additionally, they made site visits and spent a day getting feedback and recommendation from local law enforcement officers and a school safety expert. They conducted several other meetings with top administrators and the executive planning committee for review and revisions. Obviously, this very detailed process involved many days and certainly more than Jan. 10, 2019 erroneous report of three days. The programming component is always part of the architectural design/consultation fee. This cost, $118,000, was paid upfront and the final contract with Quackenbush Architects reflects this payment.
- The contracts for the architects and construction team were approved at the Dec. 10, 2018 meeting. Out of respect for new board members, the board returned to executive session a second time to ensure all questions were answered by our legal counsel and consulting engineer. In an unusual move, the board approved both contracts but added that board members could submit more questions over the next several days. To streamline the process, the motion to approve the contracts also included the following: “This motion authorizes the Superintendent to confirm the acceptability of all contract terms with the District’s counsel and or return the matter to the agenda for a special called meeting for further approval if necessary and move forward with the design of the school.”
- The Superintendent received legal council’s advice concerning the five suggested contract changes submitted that week. The attorney noted the questions were repeats of those asked during executive session. The attorney wrote a detailed memo answering the questions and issued his opinion that such changes would not serve the district well. Thus, a special-called meeting was not needed and the Superintendent followed the direction provided from the approved school board motion.
- The assertion made in the Open Letter to the Irmo News that public trust in the leadership of District Five is a major issue is totally without merit
The community of District Five has much pride and trust in the leadership after the successful completion of a building and renovation plan as a result of the 2008 Bond referendum. Most students are out of portable classrooms and student achievement at an all-time high. Over 70,000 people live in the District Five community; the vast majority see the benefits of a great award-winning school district. The 17,500 students and their families certainly see the benefits.
We live in a society where anyone is free to submit letters with their unfact-checked opinions to publications, but is that the best way to impact positive change? This letter is about giving the community the facts. I’d invite anyone with a vested interest in our school district to engage with us directly, to roll up their sleeves and work with the entire board to continue the excellence we celebrate in School District Five.
Robert W. Gantt
Chair, Board of Trustees
School District Five of Lexington and Richland Counties
1213 Old Tamah Road
Irmo, SC 29063