San Diego Unified School District Building for the Future
San Diego Unified School District has $8.4 billion to construct clean, safe, environmentally friendly school facilities
The San Diego Unified School District is in the midst of one of its biggest modernizations in the district’s 166-year history. With more than $6 billion of the $8.4 billion in capital improvement construction still to be pushed out over the next 10 years, opportunities abound for contractors, suppliers, equipment providers, and manufacturers in and around the region.
The district, which serves more than 121,000 students in pre-school through grade 12, is the second largest in California. San Diego voters approved three general obligation bond measures—Propositions S and Z and Measure YY—providing for the multibillion dollar capital improvement plan. San Diego Unified’s Facilities Planning & Construction (FPC) Division is responsible for managing the program. Its mission: design and construct clean, safe, environmentally friendly facilities that encourage successful teaching and learning.
Building Relationships, Building Schools
With those goals in mind, Karen Linehan, Business Outreach Program Manager for the district, says that the Facilities Planning & Construction team is actively looking to develop new relationships with qualified contractors “in order to fill the many needs that will arise over the course of the program. We want to get the word out to contractors now so they can learn about the scope, dollar value and timeline, and then make a plan and bid on projects as they become available.”
Some projects under way include new construction at Herbert Hoover High School, Wilson Middle School, Logan Memorial Educational Complex, and Longfellow K-8. And this is just the beginning. But, as with any public entity, there are specific guidelines and parameters that interested parties must adhere to in the bidding process. Getting ahead of it will put everyone in a winning position.
Getting in Line with Prequalification
Linda Hippe, who serves as the Construction Contracts Administration Supervisor for the district’s Strategic Sourcing and Contracts department, has some solid advice for contractors looking to submit bids for work on district projects.
For contractors, ensuring you meet the prequalification criteria is of the utmost importance. Hippe shares, “We prequalify all of our general contractors for any project that is over $1 million. When a GC submits their prequalification application with the district, they want to make sure that they have completed public works projects, i.e., a facility built for government agencies, including district, federal, local, county, or state—in California. They also must have completed projects in California school districts, up to a community college level.”
Other criteria include labor compliance, contractor registration, and surety bonds. Also of note is the requirement by San Diego Unified School District that a minimum of 3% disabled veteran business (DVB) participation be present on all its construction projects. Therefore, it is important for prime contractors to have access to a wide range of subcontractors and suppliers, including disabled veterans (tinyurl.com/sdusd-dvb-info).
On projects over $1 million, the MEP subcontractors (mechanical, engineering, plumbing) must also be prequalified. Hippe advises that contractors already prequalified should make sure that their paperwork and experience are up to date and that they don’t let it lapse. No one wants a surprise when they go to bid the next job. A full list of the prequalification criteria is available on the website (sandiegounified.org/contractor-prequalification).
Hippe adds, “We also have a Business Outreach Program for subcontractors to learn about upcoming district construction projects.” ( www.sandiegounified.org/business-outreach)
Procurement and Implementation Strategies
Lee Dulgeroff, San Diego Unified School District’s Chief Facilities Planning & Construction Officer, adds his take on the district’s general strategy for the complexities of construction procurement and plan implementation.
Overall, there’s a multi-prong approach in terms of the implementation strategy. Dulgeroff says, “We are addressing the facilities in the worst condition first, which is the general approach to most capital improvement programs. In this case, where we’re rebuilding school infrastructure, we’re looking at the buildings or schools that are the most worn out and need the most work to try to bring them to a state of good repair.”
This means following three guiding principles that Dulgeroff outlines. The No. 1 priority, he notes, is school safety and security. This includes, he says, “upgrading the safety features in our schools to provide perimeter fencing, a single control point of access, and immersive communication systems, for example.” To date, there have been $56.5 million in security expenditures.
Additionally, there is an overarching sustainability approach to reduce the carbon footprint for all construction projects as well as a goal to transform teaching and learning environments to support today’s learners. Dulgeroff shares, “Increasingly, students access knowledge through technology, so obviously, that is a big driver for a change in teaching methods. We’re committed to creating teaching and learning spaces that support this shift.”
Off to a Great Start
According to data from San Diego Unified School District, the bond program progress, as of December 2019, includes 83 construction projects in the design and bid phase, 34 in construction and 139 completed.
With this scope of work just the tip of the iceberg, suffice it to say that San Diego Unified School District is open for business and excited to work with qualified construction professionals who can help bring its vision to light.