SUSD Governing Board gets first look at Cherokee project

Cherokee Elementary School (photo courtesy of SUSD)

Phoenix-based Orcutt Winslow recently provided the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board an update on its efforts regarding the Cherokee Elementary School project, which included community outreach.

The Governing Board heard the update at its Thursday, March 7 special meeting at the Mohave District Annex, 8500 E. Jackrabbit Road. Orcutt Winslow received the green light for the project at a Dec. 11, 2018 meeting and began hosting several community outreach meetings.

The Cherokee Elementary School project is part of several projects under a $229 million bond that passed voters in 2016.

The process the firm hopes to follow is it will take information from a community meeting, implement it into their plans and then bring that information back to the public at the next community meeting.

Along with receiving community input, the firm has worked on a robust site analysis and a building condition assessment.

The site analysis was to assess the existing environment and how it could affect the building and layout. The assessment of building conditions was an evaluation of the existing buildings and the remaining life in those buildings.

Tom O’Neil, client leader and architect of record, gave the presentation. He led-off by saying the firm was still in the early stages of determining whether renovation or replacement would be the better option for the school.

Mr. O’Neil also laid out a tentative schedule for the project. Orcutt Winslow, Mr. O’Neil said, will have a recommendation for either renovation or reconstruction at the board’s April 11 gathering with plans for a vote at the April 16 regular meeting.

After that, the firm will have designs available over the summer and project costs by the end of the year. As for the construction, Mr. O’Neil anticipates three phases for renovations or two phases for a rebuild.

“You can see, we’ve got a lot to accomplish,” Mr. O’Neil said. “We’re on track to do that and I feel very comfortable that the way we’re tracking with this, it’ll be a successful project.”

Originally, Governing Board Vice President Allyson Beckham said she thought the architect could provide an idea of renovation or rebuild much sooner than the tentative schedule.

Mr. O’Neil said the firm could have met the earlier timeframe but he wanted to have a contractor with a better pulse on the market to provide a more accurate cost projection.

“We want that number to come in strong,” he said. “It may not be the only metric that we’re going to measure it by, but it has to be pretty darn accurate.”

Mr. O’Neil also said he believes it is important to pay for a contractor because an accurate total will help the Governing Board better incorporate it into its bond.

Since Orcutt Winslow began working on the project, Mr. O’Neil said the firm has identified four groups it plans to work with to reach its goals. Two of those include the Governing Board and the “SUSD Cabinet,” which features the superintendent and other top district administrators.

The firm is also working with the community at large and a visioning committee. This committee includes parents, community representatives, Cherokee staff and district administrators. The purpose of the committee is to act as a representative body.

The first community meeting provided feedback that Orcutt Winslow pared down into four categories: safety and wellness; uniquely Cherokee; student-centric learning; and high performance learning environment.

Each of these categories featured bullet points such as retaining the existing community feel via gardens and blending interior and exterior spaces under Uniquely Cherokee.

“We’ll use these items to measure the success of renovate vs. reconstruction,” Mr. O’Neil said. “Part of our rubric will be to measure and look at these concepts. Are they addressing this or is there a blank here we’re not hitting?”

The architect firm also received input via the second community meeting on how to best use spaces and what types of aspects would the community like to see adjacent to other aspects. The third meeting yielded help on designing the overall concept of the school’s design.

Orcutt Winslow also sought input from the school’s student government.

Mr. O’Neil said there are still two more meetings to go before the recommendation comes before the board. The fourth meeting will be a recommendation review while the fifth will be design direction.

The fourth meeting is slated for 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 25 in the cafeteria at Cherokee Elementary School, 8801 N. 56th St. in Paradise Valley. The fifth meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 29 in Cherokee’s cafeteria.

Another meeting of note is the Governing Board will select a construction manager at risk for the project at its March 19 regular meeting at Coronado High School.

News Services Reporter Josh Martinez can be contacted at jmartinez@newszap.com or at 623-445-2738

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