The Richmond School Board voted Monday night to fast-track the procurement process for design at William Fox Elementary and to begin replacing portions of Clark Springs Elementary’s roof.
Fox Elementary students moved into the formerly shuttered Clark Springs school last month. The move came roughly three months after a three-alarm fire engulfed Fox Elementary, closing the school indefinitely. Though the fire caused extensive damage to Fox, the School Board previously approved renovating the 111-year-old school instead of rebuilding it.
On Monday night, Richmond Superintendent Jason Kamras’ administration recommended to the School Board an emergency procurement process to secure design services for the Fox renovation. An emergency process is slated to take two months, while the option of pursuing a request for proposal process has an estimated timeline of six months, according to the recommendation.
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“My recommendation is to move forward with the emergency procurement method, given the desire of all of us to see the young people returned to Hanover Avenue as soon as possible,” Kamras said Monday night.
The longer the fire-damaged structure continues to be exposed to the elements, the more likely it will ruin its chances of being renovated instead of being rebuilt. An emergency procurement would drastically cut Fox’s exposure time, the recommendation says.
Fifth District School Board member Stephanie Rizzi asked if the board had to determine if Fox’s situation is indeed an emergency. According to the School Board attorney, the administration’s recommendation is before the board, which grants the decision.
Dana Fox, director of RPS construction, said Monday: “To be clear for the emergency procurement justification, the justification that we are using would be the historic element of the property.”
Fox acknowledged that Preservation Virginia recently named Fox as one of the state’s most endangered historic places.
School Board member Mariah White, who represents Fox Elementary, said she would be fine moving forward with an emergency procurement process as long as the school division could ensure that by doing so, it would not create risk for a bid protest — in which someone such as a rival bidder challenges an award or proposed award.
Kamras said he could not guarantee a bid protest would not occur, as they typically happen with traditional request for proposal processes.
Fourth District School Board member Jonathan Young first proposed to not follow the recommendation and instead direct the division to put out a request for proposals for architectural engineering by July 6 and then award a contract contingent on School Board approval by Sept. 6.
Young noted that a Virginia Municipal League guide provides an example of what constitutes an emergency.
“Dare I say that hiring an architect is a bit of a stretch,” Young said.
Young’s motion failed. A second motion to approve the emergency procurement process passed 8-1.
While Kamras recommended acting swiftly with Fox Elementary, he took a different approach in addressing Clark Springs Elementary’s leaky roof. Replacing the entire roof has a price tag of roughly $1.5 million. Instead of spending it all at once, Kamras recommended spending $600,000 to replace specific sections of the school’s roof over the summer.
On Monday evening, the School Board approved the recommendation. White asked if the division could ensure the roof replacements would be completed by the start of the upcoming academic year. While Kamras said he could not guarantee a completed job by the start of school, he said he will try his best.
The $600,000 is not coming from the school system’s upcoming fiscal year’s $2.5 million capital improvement program. With the money already accounted for, the division will fund the roof project with the expected additional $4.5 million in capital improvement funds from the state.
Before moving Fox students into Clark Springs, the formerly closed school needed a laundry list of repairs, including to its roof. Minor repairs and patch jobs for the roof cost about $900 per trip.