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The Paly Voice

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The Paly Voice

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Board of Education approves multiple contracts for Paly construction

The Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education approved two contracts this week for building and renovation projects that will take place over the next several years at both Paly and Gunn High School.

One contract, with the firm O’Connor Construction Management, Inc., authorizes $758,730 for project management, a task that, according to board member Barb Mitchell, includes detailed planning and the creation of specific designs for construction, from Oct. 1 of this year until June 30 of next year. This planning will likely last for around a year until construction begins, Mitchell said.

Mitchell added that, after the beginning of construction, OCMI’s main job will be to manage community input, and to oversee and organize the construction to be carried out by Gilbane Building Company.

The contract with GBC covers the same time frame as that with OCMI, but entails $1,281,675. According to Mitchell, GBC is to execute all of the architecture and construction involved in the Paly and Gunn renovation processes.

“We’re very excited,” Mitchell said. “They [the employees of OCMI and GBC] are sharp. I think they’ll do good work.”

The board had also, Mitchell noted, managed to spend less money on intangibles, such as design consultation, than other school districts had spent for comparable projects.

Mitchell also hinted at a few possible projects at Paly that could be high on the board’s to-do list.

“The Paly athletics facilities are one of the things that are likely to be fast-tracked,” Mitchell said.

She emphasized that this was just a guess, since no official board policy has been discussed as to which projects to prioritize.

According to Mitchell, the Tower Building and Haymarket Theater are also, due to their age, possible early focuses for renovation.

Even as she talked about the urgency of updating the high schools, Mitchell noted the importance of planning well in order to avoid taking a step down the wrong path, regardless of the effect of the planning on the speed of construction.

“We want to be clear about placement options and alternative solutions before jumping to construction,” Mitchell said.

Also on the board’s agenda was a discussion of the installation of stadium lighting for Paly’s aquatic center. The addition of the lights will be up for approval at the next meeting on Oct. 14, so long as there is no opposition at the community feedback meeting scheduled with Paly neighborhood residents on Oct. 1.

PAUSD Chief Business Officer Robert Golton stressed that the aquatic center lights would be substantially different from those that are over the Paly football field. Golton said that, since the new lights would be much closer to the center of campus and about 30 feet shorter than the football lights, with only half as many individual lights per pole, they would not cause problems for people living near Paly.

The lights, if approved for construction, would be ready for use by the beginning of this year’s swim season, and would bring Paly’s aquatic center up to par with the one currently under construction at Gunn.

The board also scheduled another construction-related contract that will be up for approval at its Oct. 14 meeting. The contract, for master planning, is with Deems Lewis McKinley, an architecture firm that specializes in school design.

For up to $97,500, DLM will study the campuses of both high schools and make recommendations as to how school facilities such as buildings, portables, athletic fields, and parking lots might best be arranged, Mitchell said.

This assessment would, according to Mitchell, go on simultaneously with the work of OCMI and GBC at the beginning of work on the Paly and Gunn projects. Both OCMI and GBC would, during this time, be working on especially pressing, and reasonably straightforward, projects in order to avoid confusion.

The chief purpose of the consultation with DLM would be to guide contractors for OCMI and GBC as well as district personnel in planning the Paly and Gunn redesigns. The plan that DLM would eventually produce would be, Mitchell said, a suggestion of how to go about renovating the two schools: possible areas of improvement, guidelines for placement of new structures, and general design ideas.

Mitchell also said that DLM has done this kind of work at other high schools around the Bay Area with considerable success.

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