WJCC Picks Virginia Beach Firm for Fourth Middle School Design

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The Williamsburg-James City County School Board approved a design firm for the division's fourth middle school. (Ian Brickey/WYDaily)
The Williamsburg-James City County School Board approved a design firm for the division’s fourth middle school. (Ian Brickey/WYDaily)

Williamsburg-James City County’s fourth middle school is one step closer to reality.

The proposed school reached an important milestone, as the WJCC School Board approved a contract to draft designs for the proposed middle school at the site of the James Blair administrative offices.

The selected firm, Waller Todd Sadler out of Virginia Beach, beat out four other bids to secure the contract, which will cost the school division slightly more than $1.75 million.

The firm will draft the working design for phase one of the planned two-phase school, and prepare schematic drawings for the second phase.

“You can’t design a multi-phase building without designing the entire thing,” said Howard Collins, president of Waller Todd Sadler.

The design work should be completed in time for the bidding process to begin on the construction phase of the middle school in January 2016.

WJCC Senior Director of Operations Marcellus Snipes said 11 architectural firms responded to a request for proposal put out by the division in January, of which five were selected as finalists. Snipes said Waller Todd Sadler was selected for its high marks from the evaluation committee on criteria consisting of:

  • Understanding the scope of the project
  • Depth and breadth of experience as a firm
  • Demonstrated ability to provide services
  • Experience in completing similar projects
  • Experience with LEED certification and green building

The firm’s flat fee of about $1.75 million is covered by a $4.9 million appropriation in the school division’s fiscal year 2015 capital improvement plan, which was approved in May 2014.

School Board member Ruth Larson (Berkeley) said she was “very pleased” with the awarding of the design contract and moving along the process of bringing the new school into the district.

“It’s something we have been working on for many years,” Larson said. “I look forward to seeing the middle school design.”

The selection of a design firm is the latest move in the fourth middle school’s lengthy process.

After months of negotiations and studies, the school board voted in October to recommend a plan to construct a 950-seat middle school at the James Blair site at a total cost of about $61 million through 2024.

The James City County Board of Supervisors voted to approve phase one of the plan in November 2014, which will convert the administrative offices into a 650-seat middle school while retaining space for central office personnel. The Williamsburg City Council approved the same plan in January.

The city and county are currently in negotiations over the final cost of the school’s construction. The joint schools contract, which governs the school division, does not spell out a funding formula for school construction.

The figure will likely be decided by the time James City County, which provides 90.5 percent of the local contribution to WJCC’s operating budget, approves its fiscal year 2016 budget, which is scheduled to be adopted April 28.

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