« Blog

Helping K-12 School Districts Pivot in an Everchanging Economy

By Michael Ginalski

The aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic has changed America in many unforeseen ways. With that in mind, it has also jettisoned the economy into difficulties that no one could have predicted prior to the onset of the pandemic. This has definitely included the world of K-12 school construction. School districts across the country are in the midst of implementing or developing facilities projects and the state of the economy and the specific types of challenges we are facing must be considered. This is where Construction Managers (CM) like Welliver show their true value. In this era we have heard the word “pivot” used across disciplines in terms of adapting to this ever changing world. At Welliver, we are currently at the table and in the field working with our clients helping to make their dollars stretch as far as possible and helping school districts “pivot” where necessary to ensure projects are successful. 

Addressing increased costs? Schedule issues? Pre-referendum budget planning chaos? This is where a district employing a CM can effectively manage these challenges. Districts should consider the following: 

Hire a CM with a robust estimating department.  

The estimators working behind the scenes are amongst the most important players assigned to a project. It is crucially important that districts purchase services that allow estimators to work at the table during project planning to ensure that what is promised can be delivered. These professionals should be utilized during the pre-referendum phase through completion. Districts often overlook this in pre-planning. 

Value Engineering.

It is important to optimize the elements of a project through an analysis of all factors including costs, upkeep, wear and tear, aesthetic value, etc. To maximize opportunities utilizing this strategy, construction and design teams need to fully understand the project as a whole and the vision and goals for the project. Every project is different as is every client’s definition of value. 

Develop strong client/architect/CM teams.

It is often said that the CM is the agent of the school district protecting its interests during all phases of planning and construction. A good Project Manager knows districts inside and out and can save money during design through evaluation of building systems. In other words, while it may be easier to remove work done previously for construction purposes it may be financially prudent to save the client money in this particular project if the system in question is not failing or not exceeding its estimated life span.  

Page turns as a practice.

Page turns allow all stakeholders to review drawings to ensure the design intent meets the client’s needs. In my experience this can also serve as a way to save money. Page turns can serve as the last chance to make sure the features and design elements are captured in the final design to ensure that change orders are minimized. 

Develop CM/client budget teams.

Developing a close CM/client budget team is crucial. These teams should meet monthly and both should keep a side by side budget to ensure change orders and other items, in the incidentals budget in particular, are being recorded in real time to avoid surprises to the client later on. I have seen many projects run into trouble as a result of a lack of cohesion in regards to the incidentals budget. 

At Welliver we are fortunate to have gained experience working with various clients, big and small, who have utilized many of these strategies to maximize dollars and ensure a successful project. In this ever changing 21st century environment, pivoting to meet client needs is what we do best at Welliver.

Mike joined Welliver as our K12 Communication Liaison after 33 years working in the K12 education sector. He brings a comprehensive understanding and direct exposure to all of the issues facing public education today. In his 13 years as the Superintendent in Corning-Painted Post (CPP) Area School District, Mike led the district through four successful referendums which led to $260M in new construction from 2010-2020. Mike bridges the gap between Welliver’s construction management teams and K12 school district superintendents, school boards, and facility directors. He provides expertise and guidance, as well as helps districts carry out capital improvement initiatives involving pre-referendum voting, budget management, community outreach, and buildings and grounds personnel. Mike can be reached at [email protected].