School district eyes rising construction costs

USD 259  Wichita School District costs
USD 259 Wichita School District costs

WICHITA, Kansas — The Wichita Public School District is moving forward on a number of building projects but rising construction costs are forcing the district to make some tough financial decisions. The district has been adjusting building projects to ensure the work is done at or under budget.

For parents like Tiffany Bennett, upgrades to Caldwell Elementary are long overdue.

“School funding has been kind of hard so a lot of schools are closed and it’s really good they are getting this done,” Bennett said.

Voters approved $370 million in bonds in 2008 to address at total of 90 building projects and improvements. Most of those projects were put on hold due the following year to lagging economy and cuts in state funding. This week the school board approved the last four of the projects.

The district’s Director of Facilities Julie Hedrick is keeping a close eye on rising costs. She says construction costs are up $40 per square foot from when the bonds were approved 6 years ago. The district did leave room for inflation, but some projects have been affected.

“We do have to keep cost in mind so that we stay within the total bond monies available and district staff and our bond manager will closely monitor the situation as we move forward,” Hedrick said.

Hedrick says the district would like to move forward on any remaining projects, including building a new Southeast High School before rising costs and inflation. The cost for that project is expected to rise to nearly $60 million. That’s nearly $5 million more than it would have cost under 2008 construction costs.

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