A competitive construction bid process equals more classrooms for the three Nooksack Valley Schools elementary buildings. With the bids accepted in September, construction stands as the next steps for the projects to build a new Sumas Elementary and add classrooms to both the Everson and Nooksack elementary school buildings.
“The bids came in near where we were targeting so we could accept all the alternatives the district had hoped for in all three projects,” says Tex Ladish, senior project manager overseeing the construction for the school district. “That was really good.”
The Everson and Nooksack projects were bundled as one package, won by Tiger Construction of Everson. The original plan was to add four classrooms to Nooksack Elementary, but the bid package will now allow two additional classrooms to bring the total to six new classrooms, along with enclosing the covered play area to make it a second gymnasium.
The Everson Elementary project originally planned for eight new classrooms, but will now construct 10 new classrooms, extend the covered play area and create a secured-entry vestibule.
Faber Construction of Lynden earned the Sumas Elementary project. Along with a completely new school to the east (behind) the current structure, the alternatives included an additional two classrooms to the original plan, along with a dedicated cafeteria that allows the gymnasium to not serve double duty.
“We are really excited to get started on these projects,” says Mark Johnson, superintendent. “We have heard nothing but positive reports about Faber and have had a great working relationship with Tiger Construction for years.”
Ladish says the Sumas design, created by Bellingham’s Zervas Group, is 100 percent complete and was included in the bid package. The Sumas project will feature a two-story design to minimize the footprint on the site and cut down on development costs and flood water displacement, says Terry Brown, architect with Zervas Group.
Brown says an east-west orientation maximizes the passive solar gain and light control, offering maximum daylighting for most classrooms and moving spaces, such as the kitchen, mechanical room and gym to the north side of the building. Strategies such as these allow the design to exceed the stringent green building stands required by the state.
Many of the classrooms will be grouped around shared learning space, allowing multiple classrooms access and visual supervision of a common area where small groups can work on projects outside the classroom or one-on-one instruction can take place.
“The selection of building materials or systems maximizes the value of the dollars spent on the project while also affording ease of maintenance and operation,” Brown says. “The structural system is also designed to be as efficient as possible. The goal was to focus the budget on what benefits the kids the most.”
Both projects had a “good number of bids” that helped push competition and allow NV Schools to include the additional options.
The biggest challenge already being faced at Sumas are the soft soils, a known condition. Crews have already stripped two feet off the site and will build up the building pad six feet with gravel. Using an aggregate pier foundation, which creates a rigid foundation by drilling and packing through the soft soil, will solve for the soil conditions. “We knew the soils at the site were going to be challenging,” Ladish says. “The special foundation work was designed and included in the bid.”
By building the new Sumas Elementary behind the existing building, the existing school can remain in operation throughout the construction of the new school. Sumas Elementary is scheduled for a summer 2022 completion. Once completed, crews will demolish the existing structure — except for the auxiliary gymnasium — and rework the parking and traffic flow on the site.
“We get to look forward to seeing how the building unfolds, the new playground it brings and enough classrooms for all,” says Megan Vigre, Sumas principal. “We are seeing the beginning of how our community supports our schools and it has been a joy seeing the work begin as it brings hope to a brighter future. We all need that right now.”
Both the Everson and Nooksack projects are scheduled for completion in summer 2021.
The bond issue for these projects was included in the district’s 2020 property taxes and Mark Johnson, superintendent, says the overall local school tax rate was exactly as communicated during the bond campaign.