After unstable soils unexpectedly drove up the cost of other public works projects in the last four months, the Longview School district officials may complete a soil study before it commits to replacing some of its elementary schools.
The school board will vote on the matter during a special meeting Tuesday.
“If we do the study, and we know for certain the soil will take more work than expected to build a school on a site, that helps us formulate how much money it will take to build on that site,” said Board President C.J. Nickerson.
The board has yet to approve a formal plan for the facilities bond it will put before voters in November, but proposals from the Facilities Advisory Committee suggest building replacements for Mint Valley, Olympic and Northlake elementaries, among other projects.
District officials are estimating new schools at Mint Valley and Olympic will cost $43 million and $35.5 million, respectively. A new school at Northlake would cost either $43 million or $35.5 million, depending on capacity. (The proposal includes options for a 375- and 540-student school at Northlake.)
School districts typically wait to do soil studies until after voters approve a construction bond, Zorn said.
“The primary rationale is to wait because there is expense involved,” Zorn told the Daily News Friday. Soil studies for big construction projects like schools can cost tens of thousands of dollars, according to construction officials.
Nickerson said an early soil study “may be unusual, but I think it’s very prudent, and a wise decision.”
“I think it’s important to now that information in advance, based on what’s happened in the surrounding area,” Nickerson said.
Poor soil conditions increased the price tag to build three elementary school projects Kelso School District by $5 million, prompting school officials to revise the bond plan to build just two new schools.
In addition, the Washington Department of Transportation is reconsidering its plans for Longview’s Oregon Way-Industrial Way intersection project after estimates came in $50 million above early projections following a soil study.
“I think it’s a lot better to know up front than to be surprised,” Nickerson said of the proposed Longview Schools projects.
Soil in the Longview and Kelso lowlands are considered unstable in earthquakes because it is largely alluvial fill, made up of porous sand and gravel. When shaken, as in an earthquake, is it prone to liquify, which can cause building erected on them to sink and fail.
The primary area of concern is the Mint Valley site because a new school would go in a “distinctly different location on that property,” Zorn said. However, the board can ask for early soil studies at all the building sites or just a selection of the three, he said.
The board will decide how many soil studies to complete in advance at Tuesday’s meeting, as well.
“My hope is the community will appreciate the fact that we’ve considered this, so that whenever we decide on a dollar figure and the number of schools, they will know we’ve done due diligence,” Nickerson said.
Also Tuesday the board will discuss the results of a scientific phone survey about the bond and the 2019-20 budget.
The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in the School District Administration Building on Lilac Street.