The West school district’s maximum insurance benefit would only cover about half of the estimated $117.4 million long-term fix proposed to renovate or replace campuses and furnishings damaged in the April 17 West Fertilizer Co. explosion.
West has a $60 million policy through insurance provider Trident and its parent company, Argo Group.
West Independent School District Superintendent Marty Crawford said adjusters are working with engineers the school district hired, deciding what structures could be salvaged instead of torn down before determining the final settlement award.
West’s intermediate and high schools will have to be demolished and rebuilt, while some buildings at the middle school must be torn down, according to a recent report to the West ISD school board.
The district hopes to complete the work in two phases during the next two years and is looking for insurance help to kick-start the projects.
Possible FEMA aid
Crawford said the district is banking on aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cover the rest of the school construction costs. But to receive assistance, the district and city of West first have to prove they sustained $34 million in damage beyond what insurance covers.
Crawford said he hopes a settlement will be reached with insurance adjusters in the next week.
The district, city and McLennan County will submit a joint FEMA application for aid. Crawford said there’s not a set limit on how much the district could receive from FEMA, but an award decision is not expected for another four to seven months.
“From what I’ve been told, they’re still deciding on how to treat Hurricane Sandy, so there’s a lot of issues in New Jersey and New York,” Crawford said of the storm that struck the East Coast in October. “Hopefully they’re wrapping that up and they can get on with the West conversation as well.”
The district is anxious to move forward with the first of two phases of work outlined by Fort Worth architecture firm Huckabee Inc. that would transform the middle school campus into a home base for West’s seventh- through 12th-grade students, who currently are holding classes at Connally Intermediate.
The district already is working to line up a construction company that can quickly spearhead the extensive campus projects.
Huckabee Inc. issued a request for qualifications for the district seeking a construction manager that will oversee all contractors working on both phases of the work.
Application packages were requested by 27 companies since the RFQ was issued Wednesday, said the architecture firm’s owner, Chris Huckabee.
The companies will have to submit proposals by the first week of June, and the school district expects to select a construction manager weeks later.
“It’s going to require someone that really understands scheduling, and it’s a large amount of work, obviously,” Huckabee said. “I think a lot of people would like to be involved in helping restore West — that’s been the expression that I’ve heard from many people. Their interest is in seeing the community put back together.”
Phase 1, which the district hopes to see completed by August, includes demolishing the intermediate and high schools and tearing down damaged facilities at the middle school to set up temporary buildings to accommodate the district’s middle and high school students during the upcoming school year. That project could cost $16.6 million.
The second phase of work, which would cost roughly $100.8 million, would begin later this fall and focus on rebuilding a middle and high school campus at the site of the current high school on Jerry Mashek Drive. Huckabee said the new schools could open in 2015.
“We’re heading in the right direction, (but) I think there’s still a long way to go,” Huckabee said.