Prop S Projects Underway; New facility for Francis Howell Union / District Learning Center approved by Board of Education

Posted on 01/22/2021
Potential FHU Building


Last summer, voters overwhelmingly approved Proposition S, a bond issue that addresses critical infrastructure needs across the District. 

Director of Facilities John Klein provided the Board of Education with an update on Prop S at the January 21 Board meeting. 

Since the passage of the bond issue in June 2020, the District has selected Atlas Building Group as project manager and owner’s rep on major construction projects, engaged Weis Design Group for design and engineering of playgrounds and parking lots, and hired SM Wilson as builder on the new Francis Howell North project.

Four Prop S projects have already been completed on-time and within budget: A new ADA-compliant track at Hollenbeck Middle; a portable classroom addition at Fairmount Elementary; parking lot resurfacing at Warren Elementary; and minor HVAC improvements at Barnwell Middle, Francis Howell Central, Francis Howell High, and Warren Elementary.

Current projects underway include the purchase of a new facility for Francis Howell Union and the District Learning Center (DLC), security vestibules at all middle schools and most elementary schools, upgrades at Becky-David Elementary, bleacher replacement at Francis Howell High, and of course, the new Francis Howell North High School. Additional master planning work is underway for both Fairmount Elementary and Henderson Elementary to help prioritize the work that needs to be done for those buildings – both of which will see sizeable additions that may change the flow of the building. 

Francis Howell North
One of the largest projects in Prop S, the new Francis Howell North is slated to open in the fall of 2023. The District engaged SM Wilson as the builder in November 2020 and will be one of the first school districts in St. Charles County to use the Construction Manager At Risk process, or CMAR. The advantage of the CMAR process is that the entity doing the actual construction is involved in the design process, which leads to fewer change orders later and a faster construction process. In the end, this helps the District save both time and money. A site survey for Francis Howell North has been completed, and the schematic layout of the new building is 95% complete. The next step will be to create the Design Development Budget for the project and complete the final designs for the building.

Francis Howell Union / District Learning Center (DLC)
Prop S called for the demolition of the current Francis Howell Union building, leaving the District with two options: Build a new facility or find an existing building in the FHSD attendance zone that would meet the needs outlined in Prop S. 

“The most financially responsible path is usually to take a building already built and renovate, versus buying land and doing ground-up construction,” said Facilities Director John Klein.

After considering multiple buildings within District boundaries, the Board of Education approved the purchase of a facility located at 801 Corporate Center Drive in O’Fallon. Currently in the due diligence phase, the District expects to close on the building in April. 

The original asking price was $8.8M, and the District was able to negotiate a purchase price of $6.3M, including office furnishings and more than three acres of land. The lower purchase price will allow for necessary renovations, while remaining within the budget set by Prop S. Klein says it would have cost $14M to build a comparable facility (not including purchasing additional land for a new build or converting existing land to accommodate a building). 

“The building is big enough to fit the District’s current needs, and positions us well for future growth and innovation,” said Klein. 

In addition to Francis Howell Union and the DLC, the new facility will be home to content leaders, disability access services, ADA compliance officers, and Special Education staff.  

“The new facility will allow us to bring together departments and staff that have been spread out across the District,” said Klein. “The building has ample meeting space and will also be reviewed for other uses.” 

Klein said his facilities team looked at other projects slated for Prop S Phase 1 to see if additional cost savings could be achieved by utilizing some of the extra space in the building. He said the current plan is to repurpose the District Administration Building for Transportation, which would allow the District to save $1M on the Prop S bus garage project. This would require moving administrators located in the current Administration Building to the new Union/DLC building, which could happen sometime this summer. Klein said the top priority will be getting Union up and running for the start of the 2021-22 school year.

Stay Informed
Follow the District’s progress on Prop S on the District website. Check back soon for new information and photos! 

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