Chamblee High School project continues to frustrate

A meeting was held yesterday to bring the community up to speed on the wobbly plans for a new Chamblee High School. As we have learned lately, this project, approved with funding from a $58+ million QSCB interest free bond was somehow underestimated by somewhere around $10 million. Apparently, it is currently being re-estimated and in the interim, progress has halted. The project is already months behind schedule and continues to show signs of losing even more ground.

The Dunwoody Reporter posted a lengthy article about yesterday’s meeting.

Read it here:

Chamblee High parents frustrated by delays in renovation

Some highlights:

Chamblee Charter High School parents angrily voiced their frustration with DeKalb school system officials March 15 over delays in renovating the school.

School officials told more than 60 parents and students gathered at the high school for a report on the construction project that it will require up to $10 million more than the original budget of $68 million.

“I think it’s an example of extremely poor management on behalf of the county,” said Joey Reasor, whose daughter is a 10th grader in Chamblee’s magnet program. “A $10 million shortfall means a lot of millions were passed until somebody raised their hand and said, ‘We’re in trouble.’”

District 1 board rep Nancy Jester also attended the meeting and posted the following tweets at the time:

I’m at Chamblee Charter HS about to listen to the construction update community meeting.
The new COO Stephen Wilkins is addessing the meeting.
Architects Perkins and Will is presenting their plans. No changes from previous plans; just a reminder of the site plan.
Parent asked when will the project start and will it change from what is presented? Walter Woods says project should start soon; no changes.
Parent asks when children will be in the new building? Dan Drake says after winter break 2013/2014; major construction will still on going.
Parent: why do we need $10 million more? Dan Drake, says that the nadatorium wasn’t included initially plus Davis-Bacon compliance.
Parent: Project was put on hold and community not informed? Can we expect a different style of communication? Walter Woods: yes
Parent: why did you come with the same presentation and we have to try and ask the right questions?
Parent: you haven’t told us why construction hasn’t happened. You aren’t guaranteeing us that the project is going to proceed as planned.
Dan Drake: Next week we are going to get a guaranteed price from the contractor and we will really know the price.
Parent: what are our cost to date? Drake: I don’t have that information. I will get that to Mr. Tench.
Parent: why can’t we start the demolition now? Woods, we have to have the meeting with contractor and have a complete answer about cost.

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64 Responses to Chamblee High School project continues to frustrate

  1. Atlanta Media Guy says:

    I couldn’t attend last night, but two neighbors who did used the words “farce” and “depressing.” I think SPLOST IV needs to be put on hold until everything in the previous SPLOSTS are accounted for. It would be comforting if DCSS gets ahead of this disaster and give the stakeholders a little hope. We asked for a total accounting before the vote, but some on our BOE said no worries everything is fine! Well now we know they lied to us, since they knew there was an issue back in June 2011, before the vote. To quote a parent from last night, who knows most of these leaders are new and who is willing to give them a chance to get caught up on our sick system said, “Don’t disappoint us!” Amen to that!

    On a side note! I have to give the students at CCHS a big shout out! They are trying to make this unfortunate situation as good as possible by painting some of the temporary walls, doors and repair some of the damage that has been caused by the little critters (rats to quote a student) that literally came out of the woodwork when the preparations began for demolition last summer.

    Let’s hope our leaders can get up to speed quickly and get this project moving!

  2. Regarding the issue that this project is supposedly now $10 million over budget: There was $11,694,682 budgeted in SPLOST III for a Career Tech/Auditorium for Chamblee HS. (Plus $30,625 for ADA) Does this money not carry over and add to the $58+ million interest free bond (QSCB)? Seems like all that combined should be enough. Or have they again misspent some of this money elsewhere already? I lost track of the monies budgeted for Chamblee HS. There was a bunch here, some there, little bit more over there…

  3. Dunwoody Mom says:

    Yes, the $11 million is being carried over and added to the $57 million raised with the QSCB bonds. The following is from the 6/6/11 BOE meeting, Item #19,

    In April 2011, the Board of Education approved the award of a Construction Manager/General Contractor (CM/GC) at Risk Services contract to Turner Construction Company for the New Replacement High School at Chamblee Charter High School. The CM/GC at Risk contract was awarded in the amount of $845,000 which only included the Design Phase Compensation and the Construction Phase Fee. This project includes the use of Qualified School Construction Bonds (QSCB). The QSCB funds were procured on May 11, 2011. These funds increased the total project budget from $11,152,507 to $68,775,000.

  4. Tucker Guy says:

    When people try to make this a North Dekalb vs. South Dekalb issue you can assume they have not been to Chamblee High recently. It is is horrible shape and YES, it is infested with rats.

  5. momfromhe11 says:

    It would be of interest to know which schools and how many have a rodent problem. So we got Chamblee, and Druid Hills. Is it the older ones (built prior to 1970)? I have heard references to non-human attendees at Fernbank, but I do not know what or if it is true.The former Kittredge had a rodent problem as well, and I do not know whether it was eliminated before it became the International Student Center.

  6. dekalbmom says:

    I was at the school for a meeting last week and went in one of the girls’ bathrooms. It was absolutely depressing and disgusting. Only one sink out of three seemed to work, no papertowels or soap. Two of the toilets were out of commission.

  7. justwatch says:

    I think the rat problem at Chamblee became much more significant as the contractor worked to dismantle the empty apartments next door — a complex that has been very poorly maintained.

  8. The Deal says:

    Maybe they could relocate the Chamblee High kids to the palace while their school is being built, and the palace employees could work out of the old Chamblee building and trailers.

  9. Atlanta Media Guy says:

    How right you are The Deal what a great idea! Let’s have those 6 figure and high 5 figure employees with their online degrees try to work in that place for a day and see what happens! I am so impressed with the students at CCHS, they are trying to make their school year as good as possible under incredibly poor conditions! Keep it up kids the new building should be dedicated to you, since the juniors and seniors will be long gone by the time the new building opens! The Deal your post was a scream!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Children should not spend most of their school career in trailers. Part of the reason for the North-South discussions is that when South DeKalb experienced tremendous growth and could not build schools fast enough to keep up, schools in Central and North DeKalb had space and smaller class sizes. When schools were built to accommodate the children, some people in Central and North DeKalb questioned why all the building occurred in South DeKalb. Fairington Elementary School had more children in trailers than some other schools had in their entire building. This was before Flat Rock was built and it is one of the largest elementary schools in DeKalb.

    When Arabia Mountain was built, comments on the other blog questioned why the need for that school and calling it a palace. There have not been any comments like that about the new Tucker. This can cause suspicion with the focus should have been on getting children out of trailers.

    Chamblee needs to be rebuilt because it is in poor condition. Everyone is DeKalb should applaud this decision. The teachers and students should be commended for putting up with these conditions, especially while construction is going on. Some things will get worse until the new building is completed but that is the price one must pay for progress.

  11. Dunwoody Mom says:

    Let me just say that a portion of my years spent at CHS were in the 1942 building – rats were our lunch companions!!! Rats are an issue at other schools – heck even a couple of the dorms at UGA were infested with rats a few weeks ago. Hopefully, the district is as pro-active as UGA officials were in treating the issue.

    Seriously, though, how the CHS facility became so downtrodden and outright nasty so quickly (because it has been in bad shape for a while) indicates to me, at least, that it wasn’t very well built in the first place. So, with an $80 million budget, we better not see many, if any, of those infamous “change controls” come before the board.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Let’s hope the new Chamblee looks better and has as many amenities as Tucker and Arabia Mountain. The district should learn from each new building and include improvements in the next one. It should not matter where in the county a new school is built, especially if it is to help provide a better instructional environment for our children.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for reminding people that ‘well built buildings’ isn’t something that the district had a reputation for. Could that be a factor of awarding contracts to the low bidder? I’d rather pay more if there was a guarantee or warranty provided with the work for several years after it is completed.

  14. dekalbmom says:

    The architects and engineers made multiple visits to Chamblee HS last year. They examined every inch of the building. If the $10 M mistake is due to the failure to include the natatorium in the plans for the new school then this is negligence and malpractice. The architectual firm has liability insurance. Surely DeKalb county has filed a timely claim so that we do not pay twice for this firm to draw the plans for the school.

    BTW, mulitple schools use the Chamblee pool for their varsity swim teams.

  15. To clarify: The issue wasn’t exactly that Arabia was a ‘palace’ as much as it was built as a brand new additional school to alleviate over-crowding in schools in the area, and then when it looked like it was going to be exceptional, the leadership decided to make it a specialty school – accessible only by application. Obviously, that wouldn’t alleviate much over-crowding in the area – if students were drawn countywide. Also, due to its location, it is virtually inaccessible to most students in north DeKalb, unwilling to make the 25+ mile trip every morning and every afternoon. Arabia was a bait and switch. It was ‘sold’ to alleviate over-crowding, but in the end, it only served a population willing to make certain grades, write an essay, wear a uniform, etc.

    Tucker and Chamblee are just rebuilds of existing schools that were and are in deplorable condition. Same for Lakeside and Cross Keys.

  16. Anonymous says:

    As you said, Arabia Mountain was built to primarily provide relief to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Lithonia. To amend what you said, about 600 seats combined were provided to those schools for that purpose. They were offered on a first come, first served basis. It was a bait and switch as you said and now serves the entire county in addition to those that took advantage of the first year offer. In the September 2010 reports on school enrollment, you will note that over 700 students each from the King and Lithonia attendance zones don’t attend their home school. Not all go to Arabia Mountain but quite a few do.

  17. Tucker Guy says:

    Pro-active is not the term for a multi-year problem. The rats have been in the building for at least 4 years and the central office has known about them for that long.

    It may be longer, but I will only speak to what I have seen personally.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Much of the new construction is of questionable quality. Take a closer look at some of it.
    And if there is little to no proper maintenance being done on it, it falls into dis-repair quickly. As an example, new flooring (computer lab, if my memory serves me correctly) at Tucker HS that was never properly waxed after install is already showing signs of significant wear.
    Also, new HVAC units (in every classroom….wonder who got that contract) at Evansdale ES do not appear to be properly balanced. IE: one unit blows heat, while others blow A/C. They are fighting each other, basically. This inefficient use leads to higher utility costs and shorter lifespan per unit.
    Until we demand accountability from the general contractors and school maintenance personnel, “new” won’t be that way for long.

  19. Anonymous says:

    The new Chamblee is scheduled to cost approximately $80 million dollars, one of the most expensive in the state. Is that enough? Some are going to simply look at the cost and make a judgment without factoring in the quality involved. People in the Chamblee area should be prepared for that discussion. True, that don’t make things they was they used to but how much are we willing to spend to get it right the first time?

  20. justwatch says:

    Chamblee is costing too much money. A few years ago there was an article that showed that DCSS is spending more per square foot for new construction than any other system. Given the past history of corruption in that department, this should make us all stop and pause.

    I have also heard that DCSS is extremely reluctant to after contractors for shoddy work. I wonder why? (see previous reference to corruption)

    SPLOST IV needed to fail. The voters were mislead about how well things had gone for SPLOST III and the ability to change the school board. It is a shame. The group that pushed for the SPLOST passage should be losing sleep, but they aren’t, because their pet projects (new schools, renovations) are included. I hope that Fernbank and Coralwood will be worth it in the end.

  21. justwatch says:

    And the scary thing is that in DCSS, most schools don’t have strong parent advocates and so there is no way to know how commonplace this poor quality issue is.

    At one of my children’s school, the quality of materials that were used were so poor, that I have concluded that part of the reason SPLOST III was coming out so far ahead (now we know this isn’t true) is that Pope was using subpar materials.

  22. Anonymous says:

    In fairness to Pope, she did not pour concrete, hang drywall, lay bricks or tar roofs. She oversaw the program that required her to award the contract to the most responsive, responsible bidder. Usually this is the low bidder. She wasn’t the person that awarded the contracts, it was done based on a committee decision then reviewed by the lawyers. Many contract winners have done work in DeKalb or the metro area before. This is probably why she is not fearful of most of the allegations against her as there were checks and balances in place to prevent a sole person from awarding contracts. If she made the final decision when there were there were exceptions, it still had to be reviewed by lawyers and approved by the Board.

    Are subpar materials being used in some school construction projects? Probably so. That’s the price we pay for awarding contracts to the low bidder. They have to cut corners somewhere to make a profit and materials is one place they can squeeze out savings.

  23. justwatch says:

    My understanding is that sometimes the materials used aren’t what were in the bid (real wood vs plywood for example). However, we have so little supervision of our projects that these things are happening.

    Additionally, DCSS is known for NOT going after contractors to fix subpar work even when under warranty. System reps told one school council that it was too much trouble to make contractors come back in and redo things.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Reasons that CCHS costs are high:
    1) nattatorium for 5 schools
    2) land aquisition because property footprint is small and abatement issues that came with that
    3) federal requirements that came with QSCB bond
    4) 4 stories tall
    5) science class rooms that are sized appropriately

  25. justwatch says:

    None of this matters, because it should have been estimated correctly in the beginning, which would have met that either the project would be scaled back or partially paid for with funds from SPLOST IV

  26. GTCO-ATL says:

    Or, more likely, the “voters” didn’t show up because the SPLOST was the only thing on the ballot in most areas. The friends, family and employees and PTAs where they had schools promised things on the list are the only ones who showed up and that was enough votes to get them whatever they wanted.

    On a side note, if the cell tower issue is put to voters this November, we will finally be able to see just how many friends and family are in each district b/c the only people in their right minds that would vote in favor are those who are doing it b/c they are being told do so or promised something in return. So, the numer of pro-tower votes will equal the number influenced by corruption and therefore, we will know how many we need to get to vote their board members out next time around.

    It’s worth a shot, anyway.

  27. anothercomment says:

    Turner Construction should be fired for leaving out the Davis-Bacon Act wages. They are a large Contractor and should know the law and the requirements to pay Davis-Bacon wages. Turner is the same company that tried to pass the buck when they got caught using illegals on the Cobb County Court House Project. They tried to say it was the sub of the Masonry Contractor’s fault. But they knew darn well. They know when one contractors price comes in so much lower than everyone else. They also know when it is whey less than what all the estimating software shows it should be. Then it also was found out that Turner did the same thing at the Court house in Jacksonville, Florida. They got caught using illegals.

    DCCS, needs to move on to the next contractor. Turner is not the most responsive and lowest bidder. They would not have won the contract if they would have properly included the Davis-Bacon Wages. The next highest bidder should contest this contract if Turner isn’t terminated. It shows once again Turner was up to their old tricks like using Illegal workers. Not assuring that all of their contractors were going to use the prevailing wage rates. Davis-Bacon requires the Prevailing Wage rates. Not necessarly Union rates, but the Prevailing wage rates by trade. What this means is that the Atlanta area is an open shop town, so it is not necessarly Union rates, since most jobs don’t have union trades people on. What it does mean that when work is suppose to be done by a Carpenter he must be paid Carpenter rates. Lets say $12-14 hr. So if a job site audit is done by the Department of Labor and a guy is wearing a hammer on his tool belt or is using an pneumatic hammer then he is suppose to be paid the prevailing Carpenter rates of the area. If they look up his name on the certified payroll and see that the Company is Calling him a Laborer and paying him $8-10 hr. Then they have violated Davis-Bacon Labor Rates. They also have to be paying equivalent benefits. The reason is so that no one can under cut another by basically paying slave labor rates out. The Davis-Bacon Act was put in place before we had all this problem with illegal workers. It is also a check of that. Turner is known in the Construction industry for using illegals with is multiple tier workers. Where is D.A.King to Protest against Turner and their wage violations.

  28. GTCO-ATL says:

    Just for the record, at GTCO-ATL, we were advocating against SPLOST though it fell largely on deaf ears. See: for a blog article that gave everyone here on School Watch a shout out as well.

    And, I don’t know if this has been discussed, but we heard that the issue with the cost descrepencies has been the laws regarding illegal aliens and the resulting impact that the construction industry has felt due to the more difficult to find illegal workforce, also explains the unqualified work (not saying they do a bad job, but are likely to not be certified professionals and are just paid daily work / daily pay rates.). The extra wing at MLK has gone up in estimated cost by $10M and it hasn’t even broken ground last we heard.

  29. GTCO-ATL says:

    I think the article failed to mention Jolly Elementary in Clarkson, on the cell tower list, which serves a neighborhood population as well as a large number of immigrant students from a nearby housing area. How these kids are supposed to be able to read the warning signs around a cell tower area when they can’t even speak English is beyond me.

  30. GTCO-ATL says:

    ooops, sorry… thought this was the St. Patrick’s Day immigrant article. Comment applies over there, not here.

  31. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for sharing this good information! Labor rates did go down during the housing crisis. If illegals were used, that means they were paid even less than the prevailing rate. Factor in the 2011 legislation that caused many illegals to either go underground or leave it tightened the labor pool and probably increase wages sharply. We say the impact to the agricultural industry as they had a hard time finding pickers for some crops.

    That said, it is possible the Chamblee project may go up even higher, for legitimate reasons,. If the above assumptions are correct, do we blame the school system?

  32. justwatch says:

    I don’t think costs can go up. That is what is so confusing about this. The request for proposals should have clearly spelled out Davis-Bacon requirement. When a company bids for any kind of project (government or private sector), they are awarded a contract to do the work spelled out in the RFP for the price they bid and that is put into the contract.

    It is unclear to me why this is even an issue.

    I heard today that when Turner approached her, Barbara Coleman told them tough — you do the work as outlined for what you bid. Unsure why the system’s attitude has changed. (See comment a few posts up about corruption.)

  33. bettyandveronica1 says:

    Dan Drake “Next week we are going to get a guaranteed price from the contractor and we will really know the price.” Sounds like we have to pass it to see what’s in it to me.
    Is it me or does this entire conversation read like Charles Durning singing in the “Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” “Dance a Little Sidestep” Just so appropriate to remember this song as we go along with these fools. Check it out.

  34. Anonymous says:

    What if there were “truth only Tuesdays”….I challenge any posting on Tuesday to be verified truth only. I realize it is not as much fun to tell only factual and truthful news but for the good of DeKalb Schools, please try to tell only facts and the truth. Sam Moss Building is the center of construction for DeKalb Schools. Stop by for a visit, ask questions, please make an effort in your postings.

  35. justwatch says:

    I am sorry — but what does your posting have to do with this issue? Are you arguing that the construction, both new and renovations, has all been of high quality? Do you realize that SPLOST IV contains repairs to roofs that were new under SPLOST II? Do you realize how shoddy some of the work has been?

    Or are you arguing that it is ok that CCHS’ project is now 10 million over budget, though a RFP and contract were issued at a different amount?

    Please explain what it is that you are saying?

  36. Anonymous says:

    I think what they are saying is that there is a lot of speculation going on disguised as facts. I would be interested to hear what Barbara Colman has to say about reported increase for Chamblee then make an assessment based on that.

  37. Anonymous says:

    That’s correct. The “new” addition to MLK H.S., on 2006 SPLOST III project list, was subsequently put on hold for almost a year. Then the estimate was revised upward by another $10 million. It was to have broken ground earlier this year with an proposed completion date of 2013. Not sure if it has but they have staked the ground for the proposed T-Mobile cell tower! So the children remain in trailers for several years past the originally promised date around 2009 or 2010.

  38. @ anothercomment

    When you use the word “illegals,” are you referring to people?

  39. The whole system or district or whatever and its board are in full CYA mode at this moment. It’s at its most opaque. I had to laugh when I saw a recent email from the district referencing its continued commitment to transparency or something like that. It seems everyone is either hiding, hedging, spouting empty rhetoric (a la Eugene Walker), or outright lying.

    I can no longer trust anything anyone with any authority says around here, even Dr. Atkinson (as long as Walter Woods is her mouthpiece.)

    It’s frustrating and discouraging.

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