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Local

Saratoga School District approves renovation projects in Morris

Renovations at the Saratoga School will include addition of new classrooms, a kitchen and an asphalt bus loop. Construction is expected to be completed before next school year.
Renovations at the Saratoga School will include addition of new classrooms, a kitchen and an asphalt bus loop. Construction is expected to be completed before next school year.

The Saratoga School board has approved a bid for a sweeping building expansion project.

The approval came Oct. 21 after an earlier Finance Committee meeting where bids from six construction companies were reviewed.

The lowest base bid from Plainfield-based RL Sohol came in at just below $12 million, well under the original estimate of $13.7 million projected during an August meeting.

The plans will renovate some parts of the building, including the small gymnasium, and add in new areas, such as new classrooms, STEAM laboratories, a kitchen and an asphalt bus loop.

Construction is expected to be
completed in time for the start of the 2020-21 school year.

Saratoga was mandated $10.3 million for the project by a referendum in November 2018.

One of the alternate bids proposed included funds to haul away an existing hill of soil left over from previous construction, as well as removal of any excess soil produced during the 2020 project. However, board members rejected that portion of the bid. Board member Mike Feeney called it an unneeded expense.

“I don’t see the need to spend half a million to move a pile of dirt. It’s not bothering anybody,” Feeney said.

Fellow board member Brett Geiger agreed.

“We should just put out a sign: Twenty dollars, take as much as you want,” Geiger said with a laugh.

Superintendent Kathy Perry said the soil could also be used to help level an uneven area toward the back of the property.

“We have $800,000 in life safety money and $500,000 in working cash. Together with not paying for spoils removal, the district could save
$1.8 million,” Perry said.

Studio GC Architecture Senior Principal Patrick Callahan led the presentation of bids during the committee meeting. He said he was impressed with the district’s finances.

“I’ve worked on projects where it’s been a real struggle for groups to finance, but [Saratoga’s] fiscal responsibility has really set you up for success,” Callahan said.

Perry said one of the aspects she’s most excited about is the inclusion of a kitchen, which will allow staff to prepare hot meals for students on site. Before 2002, Saratoga students had to bring sack lunches to school. Since then, they’ve had hot meals delivered to them from other area schools.

At least one part of the project will be decided by the student body.

“We have a few different designs for the new playground. We’ll show each example to the students and they’ll decide which one they’d like to have us build,” Perry said.

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