Burbank Unified Anticipates December Start For Disney Elementary School Construction

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The new two-story modular building will be added to the Walt Disney Elementary School campus in 2021. (Image Courtesy Burbank Unified School District)

After years of redesigns and delays, the Walt Disney Elementary School construction project to add a two-story building to the school site will move forward with construction to begin December 14. Preliminary work at the school site, including the removal of trees, poles, play equipment, ball wall and garden according to the plan may begin as early as the week of November 30, according to Burbank Unified Director of Facilities Larry Cross.

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BUSD officials remain optimistic that students will be able to use the new building in Fall 2021.

Approval for the Disney Elementary School construction project was finally made by the Division of the State Architect on Friday, November 20. With the DSA approval secured, the plans for the Disney Elementary School construction project move forward.

Silver Creek, the contracted builder who has completed several projects for Burbank Unified and Southern California school districts, begins construction of the modular building at their facility in Perris on December 14. Anticipated completion of the off site build is approximately two to three months after building start.

Disney was slated for construction to begin back in 2017, using Measure S Bond funds to build a one-story modular classroom. After feedback from the staff and parents at Disney, multiple Town Halls and work sessions, that plan was expanded to a two-story new building in 2019, and plans sent off to the Division of the State Architect for approval.

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Cross called the more than a year of delays since submission to DSA a “perfect storm” in a recent School Facilities Oversight Committee (SFOC) meeting. DSA approval can take quite a long time in typical conditions. The agency had identified a fix required with the structure build, that took several months to sort out.

The advent of the coronavirus pandemic in March slowed everything down as well. Silver Creek also went through financial upheavals resulting in the builder being bought by new owners during the summer of 2020.

In September, several Disney Elementary parents addressed the Burbank Unified Board of Education with their concerns and frustrations about the ongoing delays.

Subsequent SFOC meetings took up the concerns and discussed what had happened to tie up the construction approval over the past year. The SFOC looked at options for a “stick-build” as opposed to the modular build. But the projected costs would be more than two times the modular build and would delay completion of the new building even longer. The Silver Creek contract guaranteed a cost of $298 per square foot, regardless of timeline of completion. Costs would be about 1.5 times higher if BUSD sought another builder for the modular style.

“It was reported at the August 7, 2019 SFOC meeting that the Disney plans had been submitted to both DSA and the California Geological Society,” explained Burbank Unified Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Services, Debbie Kukta. “During ongoing status checks with Silver Creek, it was reported that Silver Creek was waiting on DSA; the District received that same report over several months.”

“Over time, the District’s project was linked with another one of Silver Creek’s projects, Bell Gardens Elementary School in the Montebello Unified School District, that were based on the same design; at some point in the fall of 2019, Silver Creek reported there had been a design issue concerning the bolts that secure the second floor to the first floor,” Kukta continued.

At that point, “the delays have been attributed to a code change which required a change in the design concerning the bolts; Silver Creek and DSA were unable to come to consensus as to how the design issue could be resolved.”

“When the pandemic shut down schools in March, both Silver Creek and DSA continued to report delays, now due to COVID,” Kukta also said.

“Silver Creek also went through an ownership change recently. A new 80% owner is now the CEO of the company effective July 2020,” added Kukta. “I believe the new owner had a lot to do with resolving and expediting the actions we’re now seeing, assisting with moving the plans through DSA.”

The Montebello school construction project was approved by DSA in October, so BUSD officials expected the Disney Elementary School construction project approval to follow, and it was subsequently approved on November 20.

“Silver Creek informed the District that construction would be completed over an 8- to 12-week period. No additional money is expected to be needed at this point although the budget for the project will be closely monitored throughout the project.”

Burbank Unified recently hired construction management firm Lundgren Management, after a Request For Proposal process that included four bidders, to supervise and track the Disney Elementary School construction project.

“Cosmetic fixes have been put on hold for the existing building housing the library and computer lab because the building will be demolished once the modular building is completed and the library, computer lab, and classrooms will relocate to the new structure,” Kukta also said, in response to parent concerns expressed at the September Board of Education meeting.

School site plan for Walt Disney Elementary School includes a new two-story modular building, new playground and grass play field. (Image Courtesy Burbank Unified School District)

The new modular building will house the library, computer lab, classrooms, specialty services rooms, a custodial closet, a combo data/electrical room, along with student and adult restrooms.

The existing building, the “L Wing,” housing the library and computer lab will be demolished and made into a new grass field. Construction of the new playground and play field will occur later in the construction process.

The new Sliver Creek construction start date of December 14 “is acceptable to the District as it will allow more time for the District’s bid process for site work to progress, given the holidays and the fact there is no school board meeting the first week of January,” explained Kukta.

“The District will be hiring Quality Bidders to evaluate and identify qualified contractors to bid on our site work,” she also said. “We should have a list of pre-qualified contractors by December 7 to send bidding packages off to for the site work. We are looking at awarding site work contracts during the month of February.”

BUSD officials plan to meet with Lundgren Management and the build architect weekly to track progress on the project.

As of September 24, Burbank Unified has spent $813,152.14 of Measure S Bond funds on the Disney modernization project. The original Silver Creek contract is for $3,156,512.00 which includes the building, elevator and bathrooms, according to a report on the Disney Elementary School information page on the the project. The final contract agreement was signed July 18, 2019, and approved by the Board of Education. The price is locked in, excluding any submittal changes or upgrades.

“The only variable is the site work to be done (Water, Sewer, Electrical to the new building, a new playfield and a new playground are all part of this project). The AOR [Architect of Record], who sets the total project cost estimated the total project cost including contingency and escalation is $6,548,223.00.”

The District has reserved approximately nine million dollars in bond funds for completion of the Disney modernization project, including a 1.5 million dollar cushion.

“The August 2021 occupancy date remains a target but is optimistic given unknowns like weather delays, contractor scheduling delays and other various occurrences that could potentially cause delays,” added Kukta. “We will continue to post weekly updates on the Disney Elementary School website to inform parents and the community as to progress and developments.”

More information on the Disney Elementary School construction process can be found on the school’s website.