Two years ago, leaders at Oak Park and River Forest High School decided to defer the renovation of 20 classrooms to trim costs on the nearly $33.6 million Project 1 renovations and upgrades to the Scoville Avenue campus. That has turned out to be, as the saying goes, penny-wise and pound-foolish, as the cost to renovate the 20 classrooms has now increased by $858,878 or 45 percent. Meanwhile, 45 classrooms have already been renovated as part of Project 1.
The newly calculated cost to renovate the 20 classrooms is $2,778,222. The original estimate was $1,482,253 but that initial estimate did not include $465,000 for furniture, fixtures and equipment that are included in the latest estimate. Some $90,000, or five percent of the increased cost, is due to scope changes that include $60,000 for standardized internet cabling, $18,000 for doors, and $12,000 more due to the use of luxury vinyl tile flooring instead of carpet.
But the bulk of the cost increase is because of rapid inflation over the past two years. The school board is expected to vote to approve the renovation of the 20 classrooms, to be done next summer, at its Oct. 27 board meeting.
The updated cost was presented to the school board at its Oct. 13 Committee of the Whole meeting and school board members were not happy about the big cost increase.
“I think we can learn from this because in the original Project 1 plan I think we were talking about well under $2 million,” said school board member Fred Arkin.
Board president Tom Cofsky was also not happy that the initial presentation to the school board at the Oct. 13 meeting did not make clear that the $465,000 cost for furniture, fixtures and equipment was not initially included in the original cost making it difficult to figure out how much the cost of the project has increased.
“I’m frustrated with just the communication and presentation of this information,” Cofsky said. “To try to even figure out apples to apples, what we started with and what we were bid. It’s my expectation that you would try to anticipate the general questions of the board and I see it more of trying to figure out and ask questions, oh this one includes furniture and this one doesn’t include furniture. We are being asked to make informed decisions and the information that we receive, from my perspective, is not information upon which we can make informed decisions without having to go in and ask a whole bunch of questions to get answers. It’s like pulling teeth, so I’m frustrated with that.”
Superintendent Greg Johnson asked Cofsky if he was just frustrated with the increased cost of renovating the 20 classrooms or if he was frustrated with the quality of the information presented to him.
Cofsky made clear that he was frustrated with the last second change in the material presented to board members.
“The information we received was not clear,” Cofsky reiterated.
Johnson made clear that he got the message.
“Point is made and point is understood,” Johnson responded.