Construction on new K-8 school delayed after bids to build it came in way over budget

K-8 school "NN" will have a similar design to Pine Island Academy, which is shown here in a rendering. (Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – The St. Johns County School District is postponing the construction of a new school in the northwest part of the county after the school board voted Tuesday night to reject three multi-million dollar bids because they were too costly.

Three companies submitted bids last week to build a new K-8 school in the Shearwater neighborhood between County Road 210 and County Road 16.

Culpepper Construction Company submitted a $67.5 million bid, D.E. Scorpio Corporation put in a bid for $62.5 million and STG Contracting Group said it could build the school for $56.2 million.

Just two years ago, the district said it built the exact same model school for $37.2 million.

Harvard Jolly Architecture and the district said the bids received were exceptionally high and came in “considerably over budget.”

“It is our opinion that the current bidding climate which includes uncertainty in the availability of construction materials as well as the shortened construction duration for this project resulted in bid amounts in excess of the budget. Harvard Jolly as good stewards of the St. Johns County taxpayer dollars cannot recommend the award of this project to the apparent low bidder,” Harvard Jolly Project Manager Lance Courtemanche wrote in a letter to the district.

It wasn’t immediately clear what the budget for the new school was, but the district and board members said they were shocked at how high the bids they received were.

Courtemanche recommended the St. Johns County School District reject all current bids for the new K-8 school “NN” so it can “change several variables within the project to encourage more contractor participation and ultimately reduce the cost.”

The school district laid out an ambitious goal for the new school that it desperately needs help with overcrowding in nearby schools. The district said it wanted to have the new school open for the start of the 2023-2024 school year. Now, the new school will likely not be ready for students until the fall of 2024.

The district said the high cost of the rejected bids was likely a result of inflation and the accelerated timeline for construction.

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