Huber schools re-evaluating construction project as costs soar

A $7 million expansion project for Huber Heights City Schools has hit a snag after an unanticipated rise in construction expenses caused the project’s estimated cost to soar by around $1.6 million. The project includes the planned construction of three career technology labs on the Wayne High School campus. AIMEE HANCOCK/STAFF

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A $7 million expansion project for Huber Heights City Schools has hit a snag after an unanticipated rise in construction expenses caused the project’s estimated cost to soar by around $1.6 million. The project includes the planned construction of three career technology labs on the Wayne High School campus. AIMEE HANCOCK/STAFF

The school board is weighing a career tech and “maker space” expansion after projected costs rose by $1.6 million.

HUBER HEIGHTS — The Huber Heights school board will re-evaluate its planned $7 million expansion project after an unanticipated rise in construction expenses caused the estimated cost to soar by around $1.6 million.

According to district spokeswoman Cassie Dietrich, the sharp rise in projected cost stems from supply chain issues, much of which is a lasting effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and its strain on the global and national economy.

“Because of economics in the state of where we are as a country and globally, the construction costs of the project have increased,” she said. “Even from the time that we did all of our bidding out, which was in December, prices have already gone up for materials.”

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The expansion project was set to include the construction of new career technology and “maker space” labs. Dietrich said the board of education now will be tasked with choosing from alternative options.

All of the options would involve scrapping the portion of the original plan to construct the maker space labs as permanent additions onto each elementary school within the district, at least temporarily, Dietrich said. Instead, alternatives could include reconfiguring schools in order to make room for maker space labs within existing classroom space or constructing one mobile learning lab that could travel between schools.

A set of alternatives has been created, and interim Superintendent Kelly Spivey was asked to share it with the school board, Dietrich said Wednesday. She added that the board is likely to schedule a work session to discuss the issue in the next few weeks.

The largest portion of the project — renovating and adding to a Wayne High School building to create three career tech labs for student use — is still expected to be completed as planned.

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The building to be renovated is attached to the school’s Performing Arts Center, but detached from the main high school building by a driveway. It is not currently used for any active learning and has instead served as a place for storage and some athletic locker rooms, according to Dietrich.

The career tech labs will allow students to experience hands-on education within the construction/electric/carpentry, HVAC and welding fields.

The expansion project will be funded by the district’s American Rescue Plan ESSER III funds. That money will also go toward other academic and student-based programs for the district.

“This is money that was given to us to do something that is a longstanding improvement project in our district that will improve the educational experience for kids for many, many years,” Dietrich said earlier this year.

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