By Jann Wiswall

“When is construction starting?”

That’s the question Superintendent Mark Ward hears most often from parents and visitors at Ellicottville Central School these days.

The answer is: not until June 18, 2014 — the last day of the upcoming school year.

That’s because the project is still in the final planning stages as the architects fine tune plans and construction planners put line-by-line cost assumptions to the project and prepare to send them to Albany for State Education Department approval on Nov. 1. Once in Albany, the review process will take a good six months.

At the Tuesday, Aug. 27 meeting of the Ellicottville School Board, SEI Design Group Senior Principal Michael Ebertz and colleagues walked the board through the proposed final plans, showing detailed drawings and computer models of the most complicated and visible piece of the project — the new multi-purpose gymnasium. The new structure was designed with extensive input from the school’s athletic, music and computer technology departments in order to create highly flexible spaces that will be well suited to small group instruction and multiple gym classes, as well as to large sporting events, performances and ceremonies using the entire gym and stage areas.

In addition to the multi-purpose gym, extensive renovations and improvements to the aging infrastructure of much of the rest of the school are planned. The cost of these mostly behind-the-scenes improvements totals about 85 percent of the voter-approved $9.8 million project.

These projects include partial roof replacement; electrical, masonry, and ventilation improvements (including major ventilation and drainage improvements in the elementary school wing); renovation of 10 high school classrooms and the main hallway; accessibility, security and lighting improvements; a new entry vestibule at the high school side entrance; select locker replacement; restroom renovations; technology upgrades and more.

Following the design presentation, the board then heard from Campus Construction Management (CCM), the firm that is charged with attaching numbers to the project. The challenge for CCM is to estimate probable bids for each line item in the project. This includes estimates for every foot of wire, every ton of bricks, every individual light bulb, every pane of glass, every gallon of paint and every hour of labor (they’re estimating about 40,000 hours).

As of Tuesday’s meeting, CCM’s estimated costs were running about 6 percent ($538,000) higher than budget. During the next two months, it will be the team’s responsibility — architects, planners, school staff and the board — to get that number down either by cutting the scope of work or by finding less expensive ways to meet the same needs. After all, the state won’t consider the project if the dollars don’t agree with the voter-approved budget.

Once the state approves the project, hopefully by May 1, CCM will start advertising for bids. Construction should start June 18, with a target completion date of Jan. 13, 2016.

For more ECS news, see “What’s New at ECS?” on page 6.