Rising construction costs and the discovery of endangered snails at the site of what was to be the expanded Simon Sanchez High School will likely mean fewer classrooms.
“(The current amount of funding available for the project would leverage approximately $ 65 million in costs,” said Jon Fernandez, superintendent of the Guam Department of Education, referring to a 2013 law authorizing the funding.
But, in the nearly 10 years since then, construction costs have risen.
“As we review the project and the changes we are starting to have to make, we expect the cost estimate to be approximately $ 138 million, which includes a base construction estimate of $ 121 million and then a construction estimate of the offering. alternative of 17 million dollars “.
Fernandez said these numbers are provisional and GDOE is working to cut costs.
However, GDOE may still need additional funding to proceed with the project.
The basic offer includes the construction of classrooms, offices, canteen, gymnasium, library, access roads and parking lots and an athletics field. The alternative offer includes the auditorium, the ROTC range, the credit recovery system, the solar panels, the rainwater collection basin and the landscaping elements.
One change is the removal of proposed classrooms from the southwest corner of campus where federally protected native snails were found. The discovery has kept the design phase at 60% for the past two months. The downsizing would also reduce construction costs.
On Friday, Tanaguchi Ruth Makio Architects told members of the Guam Education Board that in order to reach 90% completion, the project needs to be adapted to accommodate the endangered snails.
Fernandez said they also had the option to move forward with the current proposed project, which would mean finding a new habitat for the snails.
“I think the options to relocate the colony would take too long, I’ve heard an estimate of two years,” Fernandez said.
Instead, they’ll adjust the design, leaving the southwest corner of the lot intact so they can move forward.
The 90% target is set for around May 26, he said.
GDOE must reach the 90% target so that officials can issue a call for offers for the next stage.
“Basically, it looks for bidders who are willing to contract, finance and rent a new school to GDOE. Also included in the contract will be maintenance for the lease period which would be 30 years, “Fernandez said.
While the changes will mean 16 fewer classes, Fernandez noted that the school’s student population is lower than originally expected.
“We were originally planning this school for a much larger population than we had in 2013,” said Fernandez. “But we also recognized that enrollments have decreased and are expected to remain at a lower level.”
The snail group is thriving on the site. The architects said Guam is the last island where these specific snails can be found and they are federally protected.
TRMA lead architect Michael Makio said there are efforts to locate public property in Guam that could serve as a protected habitat for snails.
The snail is listed as one of 23 endangered and threatened species across Greater Micronesia due to habitat loss, military expansion and training, invasive species, and climate change, according to a release from the Center for Biological Diversity.
Recently, a legal victory was secured by the Center for Biological Diversity and Blue Ocean Law against the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, resulting in the protection of critical habitats for the 23 endangered species.
Fernandez said an update on the project will be provided next month.