BY RICHARD GILBERT - The Calgary Board of Education (CBE) has asked the Alberta government to use a traditional design-bid-build approach for new school construction, due to worries about delays with the public-private partnership process.
“We are concerned that if a public-private partnership (P3) approach is used for any new schools, which are approved, that the schools would not be available until September 2017,” said Sheila Taylor, chair of the board of trustees.
“As our administration could expedite the design and construction of these schools a year earlier in September 2016, we would request that you consider rewarding the responsibility for the delivery of new schools to the CBE, in order that we may meet the community demand for schools in their new areas.”
Taylor made this comment on Jan. 24 in a letter to Jeff Johnson, the Alberta Minister of Education and Minister of Infrastructure Ric McIver.
She is concerned with the urgent need for schools in Calgary during the Three-Year School Capital Plan 2014-2017.
The plan forecasts student enrolment will increase to 121,133 students in 2017, from the current student enrolment of 107,104.
There are 25 new school construction projects in the plan, with a total cost of $530 million.
The plan also includes $330 million for major modernization projects.
In total, the project is worth $860 million.
Alberta Premier Alison Redford promised in April 2012 to build 50 new schools and renovate 70 more by 2016.
The total cost of this project is about $2.4 billion.
The new schools are planned for Calgary and Edmonton, as well as Fort McMurray, Airdrie, Grande Prairie, Okotoks, Leduc, Beaumont, Medicine Hat and Lethbridge.
A sole bidder is currently preparing a request for proposal (RFP) for the Alberta government to build a bundle of 19 schools using a P3 procurement process.
However, local school boards across Alberta are still in negotiations with the ministries of education and infrastructure about the construction of the remaining 31 schools.
“A decision has not been made in terms of how this package of schools will be built,” said Parker Hogan, press secretary to the Alberta minister of infrastructure Ric McIver.
“They could be single school RFPs or bundled. A decision will be made through discussions between the school boards and Alberta infrastructure.”
The Calgary Board of Education (CBE) has already submitted a prioritized list of schools from the three-year plan to the ministry of education.
They are requesting approval from the government for a number of these schools.
“If a school board has the capacity and the competency to manage the project, and they want to do it, due consideration will be given,” said Hogan.
“There are and have been times in the past, when school boards have done this. It’s been done before in previous building efforts.”
The CBE is concerned that if a P3 procurement approach is used, the new schools would not be available until September 2017.
“Administration is ready to work with both of your departments to immediately commence the implementation of the project scoping, final budgeting, procurement and construction delivery process,” said Taylor in the letter.
“We are assuming that the delivery model for these modernizations will be a design-bid-build, lump sum contract process, led by the CBE, in consultation with your technical staff and as outlined in the School Capital Manual.”