Wolgast Blog

Prioritizing School’s Needs for ESSER Funds

Posted by Cory Sursely on 10/13/2021

EsserFundsThere are so many decisions to make as schools get back to in-person learning and doing everything they can to make school safer, catch students up from remote learning, and expand mental health accommodations, among other needs. School leaders, administrators, and teachers have so much on their plates, oh, and are also dealing with volatile views from parents about how to handle it all.

The CARES Act ESSER Fund is meant to alleviate some of the pressure while making schools cleaner and safer, and allow school leaders to determine how to make in-person or virtual learning more impactful for students at every learning level and socio-economic status. The ESSER Funds are significant funds with some flexibility about how to use them. There is a list of items that can be covered or provided by the U.S. Department of Education and schools can pick and choose how to apply the funds.

Among many other applications, ESSER Funds can be used for replacement of items involving indoor air treatment. Allowable uses include HVAC, doors, windows, flooring, social distancing, and more. Unknown to most, there is a path, albeit narrow, that does allow ESSER to be used for new construction. All uses of funds do need to be approved by the Michigan Department of Education, however.

There are many ways that ESSER funds can be utilized and we are assisting School Districts across the State to strategically make plans to use these one-time allocations so the funds are most impactful.

Wolgast’s Facility Team can help schools to assess their needs. They are former School Superintendents who understand what schools are facing. And should a school’s plan involve their HVAC system, we can help with those building changes.

Call us for a free assessment and we’d be happy help you develop a plan or view our Education Construction Services page to find out more about Wolgast's Construction Management Services.

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Tags: Schools, Construction Management, the Wolgast Way

You Have Construction Service Options

Posted by Cory Anderson on 7/6/2021

constructionWhich construction delivery system is best for your project?

There are several unique and distinctive methods for providing construction solutions. As a business owner you have the luxury of selecting the most beneficial and appropriate delivery system for your type of project.

Design/Build

The Owner hires one firm to provide architectural design and construction services in a phased approach.  The design/builder becomes the single-source that is responsible for designing the building, estimating the budget, hiring the subcontractors and coordinating the schedule to ensure the project is completed on time and within budget.

It’s the design/builder’s sole responsibility to complete the project to the client’s satisfaction.  The architect and contractor are the same entity, which eliminates misunderstandings as they collaborate throughout the design process.  The design/builder becomes the owner’s advocate securing multiple bids for each trade and leading them through site planning, permitting, design, value engineering and construction.  The phased approach provides economical/budget information early for the owner to decide if the project is a go or no-go.

Design/build is suitable for busy owners who don't have the time to oversee construction.  It’s also a fast-track method or a fast construction process for projects with a tight schedule.

Construction Management

A construction manager’s (CM) role as part of the project team is to provide estimating and constructability review during design, and cost, time and quality control during construction.  The client establishes their team of architect, CM and owner’s representative at the onset of the building concept.  The architect is responsible for defining the building through drawings and specifications while the CM regulates and monitors the schedule, budget, materials and performance of the subcontractors.  The owner thoroughly informed by these professionals, can then make educated decisions about his or her project.

The owner must be willing to be involved in the process because by using the CM method each trade contract is signed with the owner.  The CM method is most suitable for those who construction is a recurring activity and/or their project is very large, like schools and retail chains.

General Construction

Considered the design/bid/build method, the owner typically already has plans which were prepared by an outside architect/engineer when they seek a general contractor.  They choose their general contractor by one of three methods, 1) negotiating with one or more contractors of their choice, 2) selecting a group of contractors to bid and then accepting the lowest bid, 3) advertising for a broad variety of bids and accepting the lowest.

For clients who have a simple construction project, general construction is likely the appropriate construction solution.  It’s also the right choice when it’s necessary to bid and then build a project based upon completed plans and specifications.  However, this method leaves little room for correction of design or programmatic errors, if any exist.

Leaseback

The contractor finances, builds and leases a new facility back to a qualified owner, allowing him or her to focus on his or her business.  This is the best option for businesses that are faced with the need to expand their floor-space while at the same time minimize the risk involved with tying up capital in construction costs.

Business owners who qualify and currently have all their working capital in their business without a budget for building their new space are candidates for leaseback.  By choosing leaseback, they can move their business to a prime location and get the space tailored to their design needs.  The owner has the option to purchase at a future date when the business warrants the investment.

Still not sure which one works best for you? Call us to discuss your options.  At Wolgast Corporation, all systems are in place to provide the most appropriate delivery method. 

Tags: Medical Office Construction, Design/Build, Professional General Contractor, Schools, Construction Management, the Wolgast Way, Restaurant Construction, Leaseback, Dental Office Construction, Manufacturing Construction

How Technology Updates Change Schools

Posted by Cory Sursely on 3/26/2021

SecureEntry.jpgSchool Districts are facing pressure to incorporate technology into their curriculum to compete with other institutions who have already adopted 21st Century and New Tech programs. However, miles of wiring, hardware, software, white boards, wireless projectors and hand held devices aren’t the only technological concerns of modern schools.

Building efficiency, automation and security also play a role in technological updates. With the additional cost of keeping up with continual software updates and hardware maintenance, saving money through energy efficiency and Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing (M/E/P) monitoring can help off-set these expenses. Through building automation, all of your systems can communicate with each other and through computer monitoring you can scrutinize that your HVAC systems run more efficiently and manage energy usage to reduce costs. Also, installing LED lighting will save money and improve the student’s learning environment. Ensuring that all of these systems work together and don't have to be retroactively forced to communicate takes planning and design prior to installation.  Far too many times this is an afterthought that costs more money, but if done correctly it can save money on the project.  Furthermore, when your systems work together through building automation, they become more efficient, building occupants’ comfort can be better controlled and maintenance services moderated. Additionally, your maintenance staff will be notified immediately of system issues, so that incidences can be managed before they become a costly problem.

Probably a top priority for all schools has become their building security to make their campus safe and secure for teachers and students. We recently worked with a school to improve their security measures. Like most, they wanted, “full, unfettered control of the door” without making it feel like a prison for students. School Districts more commonly face issues with custody cases or split families and even angry boyfriends who enter the building to get in contact or even remove a student. These are the more common situations that Districts have faced in the past and are trying to control.

Most of the security updates that we incorporate include a secure entry area through double doors or office passageway, but it also needs timed door locks, cameras, and intercom systems. All these updates require hard wiring and the ability to communicate with the centralized monitoring system (same as your HVAC system).

Schools can incorporate modern technology changes that will save them money, improve the indoor environment, and provide reliable control of who is in their building by teaming with an Architect and Construction Manager (CM) who are experienced with pre-planning your systems so they work together and who have a better than average school bond passage success rate, like CM, Wolgast Corporation. Call us to discuss your building goals at 800-WOLGAST.

 

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Tags: Professional General Contractor, Schools, Construction Management

Construction of New Tech High Schools

Posted by Cory Sursely on 2/17/2021

Meridian-Schools_newtech.jpgThe New Tech Network is designed to target disinterested students, while still reaching those who are already college bound. And it is working because their report, "2020 Impact Report", shows that New Tech High School students are 10% more likely to go onto college compared to the national average.  And added 14 new schools to their network in 2020.

The New Tech Curriculum is fairly new as it only started in the mid 90’s, but it already has proven results.  On their website, www.newtechnetwork.org, they state, “NTN schools consistently outperform national comparison groups on measures of higher order thinking skills, high school graduation rates and college enrollment rates”.  Each student is provided with a computer and the necessary tools to complete “project-based learning” as a group.  In this type of environment, students learn open collaboration and problem solving skills.  The program goal is “to enable students to gain the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in life, college and the careers of tomorrow”.  For 2020, they have had to adapt quickly and create meaningful distance-learning for students.

At the time of publishing this blog, fourteen schools in Michigan have incorporated the New Tech curriculum.  Wolgast has gained experience with constructing New Tech High Schools over the past few years.  We have provided Construction Management services for remodeling Meridian New Tech High School in Sanford, Michigan.  They became one of the earliest schools in Michigan to adopt the New Tech High School curriculum for their freshman class in 2010. Then in 2016, they hired Wolgast again to complete the necessary renovations to the existing high school to allow for the extensive wiring, networking and group spaces required for the technically focused program. The curriculum stayed with those that started it as freshmen in 2010 and then extended to all following classes.  Since 2010, we have also completed more renovations to make room for the addition of students and their space and technological needs, including updates to science labs and media centers.  Meridian is focused on getting their students "Career Ready. College Bound" according to their website. They have also converted their Junior High and Elementary schools into the New Tech Network.

The difference with remodeling or constructing a New Tech school stems from each space needing to be adaptable for multiple group work stations for a variety of situations.  A higher level of coordination is the key for the Construction Manager to oversee a smooth project and account for the necessary flexibility plus technical and data accommodations.

If you’re considering adopting this curriculum for your school, you should contact the New Tech Network; however, if you need a Construction Manager to complete the renovation to your school, call Wolgast Corporation who can apply their best practices to your project.

 

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Tags: Schools, Construction Management, the Wolgast Way

Hail Damage Risk for School Districts and Restoration Action

Posted by Cory Sursely on 2/15/2021

HailRoofDamageWhat do a pea, a quarter, a mothball, and a golf ball have in common? You probably guessed it, they are all used to describe sizes of hail. The bigger the diameter of hail, the bigger the damage it causes, especially for School Districts. You may wonder why a school would be worse off than most other structures, but when you consider that most Districts have a campus with multiple buildings in the same area, the cost to restore after a hail storm can add up quickly.

Additionally, hail can be an isolated incident that occurs primarily during the months of May through September, mostly when school isn’t in session. Damage to a roof has to be assessed quickly and protection applied to prevent rain waters leaking into a building and damaging more of the structure than just the roof. Plus, if it isn’t known that hail fell upon a school roof with no one there in the summer, the winter freeze and spring rains can make the damage significantly worse and more difficult from an insurance stand point.

When our school client called us in April of 2020, during the complete pandemic shutdown of schools in Michigan, to notify us that their roof had been impacted by hail, we met with them that same day to see what kind of damage they had. The golf ball sized hail had torn holes in 70% of the High School’s roof membrane. They were fortunate that only one of their school structures had been damaged.

After the adjuster of their insurance company, SETSEG, had completed their assessment of the damage, we got to work. We provided restoration services and managed the replacement of the damaged area. We assisted the School District and SETSEG to coordinate the installation of a liquid coating to seal the holes as temporary protection until the roof membrane could be replaced. The roof replacement was complete prior to the start of the school year and also involved drywall repair, acoustical ceiling replacement, installing lights and speakers, carpet cleaning and deodorizing, general cleaning and painting the ceiling.

Wolgast is a professional Construction Manager for schools throughout Michigan. We have decades of experience and know how to make school structures functional for students and teachers whether we are building new, remodeling, expanding, or restoring after a storm. In the instance of restoration, we will work with your insurance company to return your building to a pre-loss condition efficiently and correctly. Please contact us if you have building needs for your District – 800-WOLGAST.

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Tags: Schools, Construction Management, Restoration

Michigan Schools Making Space for Robotics

Posted by Cory Sursely on 10/2/2020

RoboticsFLAt the 2018 FIRST Robotics World Championships in Detroit, there were 601 teams from Michigan. To say that robotics is growing quickly is an understatement. Through grants, bond programs, and sponsorships, Michigan School Districts are making room on their campuses to support those teams. The makerspace, as these rooms are more broadly called, can include a robotics lab. These areas are “dependent on the size of the robotics involved”, according to Douglas Rich of spaces4learning.com in his article, Designing Robotics Labs.   “There is no difference between learning to program a demonstration robot or full-size robotics arm; so many schools choose the smaller robots to save space and money”.

Robotics is well supported by the automotive industry and other manufactuers to develop the next generation of engineers.  Subsequently, there are grants available for schools to create their robotics program and scholarships available for students through the competitions. Michigan schools are creating a space for a robotics program by either repurposing existing classroom areas, adding on space, or remodeling. Below, we discuss how some of our clients are making room for robotics.

Meridian Public Schools has an enrollment of 1,340 students and began to transform their school in 2009 to the New Tech program. At that time, an entire wing of their building was converted for the intent of collaborative education. Since then, we have remodeled more of the school for collaborative learning. They were able to do this with help from grants and a bond program, respectively. We remodeled two existing rooms into a divided makerspace and their Robotics Team Volatile Chaos Inhibitors 5203 uses it for building their robots with work tables, a white board, storage and an additional tool crib.

Flushing Community Schools has an enrollment of more than 4,000 students and they have just completed an addition/remodel to their high school through a bond program. Included in the remodel is repurposed space, approximately 400 s.f. for a robotics lab with adjacent pre-engineering classroom. The robotics lab includes ceiling pulleys, white board, work tables with under storage, and rubber flooring. The Raider Robotics Team #5561 has done well for itself with 2 banner years under their belt. Prior to this remodel, the team had been conducting their work at nearby Kettering University, now they can work together in their own space.

Swartz Creek Community Schools has approximately 3,600 students and they are presently remodeling four of their elementary schools. Each of these schools is getting approximately 1,300 s.f. of makerspace intended for collaboration or lab space for small projects. Areas will be open and able to be arranged to fit the need of a project.

We are currently in pre-construction with Whiteford Agricultural Schools, which has 750 students enrolled. Their plans include a makerspace (558 s.f.), collaboration room (200 s.f.), STEM classroom (1,245 s.f.), presentation room (253 s.f.) and tool storage space in their High School. The 6750 Whiteford Bobcats were a 2019 State Qualifier.

As you can tell, makerspace is becoming more common as hands-on application of coursework is gaining popularity. Wolgast is experienced with the construction of these areas and how to build them with quality for Michigan k-12 Robotics Teams. Dean Kamen, originator of FIRST Robotics says, “We are the only sport that every kid in school can participate in and then turn pro.” firstinspires.org

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Tags: Schools, Construction Management

Key Elements that Help Our CM Division Achieve Team Cohesion

Posted by Cory Sursely on 7/6/2020

CMGears_Construction Management is the ideal delivery method for large, complex construction projects, such as those for School Districts.  School Boards and Superintendents rely on their Architect and Construction Manager (CM) to form dynamic teams to fulfill a project’s goals and seamlessly deliver their buildings on time and within budget.  Team cohesion is the goal on each of our projects.  Taking into consideration that we are possibly working with new and diverse players with each new School District, this takes effort and coordination to achieve.  An experienced CM typically will have vast resources and relationships with a wide variety of Prime Contractors, but when bidding projects, an unfamiliar contractor may be more suitable in achieving the schedule, budget, or meet proximity requirements of local contractor, therefore, we have tools that we use to initiate them onto the team as a cohesive member.

According to isixsigma.com, a communications company for process improvement professionals, the definition of cohesiveness is “the extent to which team members stick together and remain united in the pursuit of a common goal”.  In order to achieve our goal of team cohesion, Wolgast has tools and processes in our arsenal with checks and balances and those that provide quick corrective measures when a team member strays from our target. 

Wolgast is a systemized company and we have over 200 systems in place to consistently provide our work functions.  These systems include the means to vet a prime contractor prior to entering into a contract with them, and checks and balances such as forms and reports monitoring progress throughout construction, and evaluations of work.  Your CM is there to guide a team for high performance and work product, cohesion doesn’t just happen without a lot of leg work and checking that all moving parts are on track.

Additionally, we’re an Employee-Owned Company (ESOP), which means that our staff is personally vested in the success of each project. Another benefit of an ESOP is that employees tend to stay for the long haul.  We have staff members that have been with the company a long time who help us maintain our standards and pass down the leadership lessons learned by mentoring new staff.  So we’re able to pass along the key management paths to establishing a high functioning team committed to a project.

Finally, we’ve invested in state-of-the-art Construction Management software that helps keep communication open in real time.  By implementing it, each team member has accountability visible to everyone involved and the goals are openly shared.  We find that it helps guide us naturally to develop team cohesion in real time with notifications and updates pushed out to team members with alerts and bells and whistles.  We are a high end user of this software and have been asked to participate in future updates to make the software work even better for team cohesion and quality assurance.

Your CM wants each project to be successful and rewarding for the client, architect, and all the team players.  You should select one that has the knowledge and capabilities to be organized and committed to delivering just that.

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Tags: Construction Management, the Wolgast Way

The Right Mix for Pre-Bond School Election Services

Posted by Cory Sursely on 3/2/2020

Community-CenterXPreparing for a Bond Election is critical to school construction projects because if the election isn’t successful, there is nothing to construct. Therefore, Wolgast has developed Pre-Bond Election Services to set up School Districts for building success.  While we haven’t won them all on the first try, we have maintained a 92% success rate for schools we’ve helped over the past 5 years.

Our pre-bond election services are comprehensive and can be tailored to what the District needs in an a la carte fashion.  Outlined below are the full options for this first phase of school construction. Led by our staff of School Facility Experts, they help guide you through the pre-bond process.  Each Expert is a retired School Superintendent who has successfully carried out bond construction projects of their own and they have a lot of knowledge to contribute to the success of each project. 

Districts have the option to start with a facility study conducted by our Construction Management experts in conjunction with the Team Architect to identify the biggest needs in the District’s school buildings.  This evaluation provides technical data to back up the request you may be making from constituents.  A report of the findings will be presented to the board with the level of updates needed for building systems, infrastructure, materials, or spaces.

From there, we can help organize community forums to discuss the study’s findings or assist in getting public input on what would be supported in an election.  Once general consensus of the Board is identified, our School Facility Experts present funding options available, meaning qualified bond application, unqualified bond application, sinking fund, etc.  Wolgast then provides cost estimates for construction and a realistic milestone schedule.  These are used to fill in a bond treasury application if needed for funding. 

Next, the School Facility Experts can help organize a bond campaign committee, meet with the group to guide them in the right direction, and provide steps that have been successful in the past.  One of which is communicating with supporters.  Wolgast offers graphic design services to create printed materials and also underwrites the cost to print them.  Our marketing team takes the information that you deem useful and important to design and produce either brochures, postcards or posters for your communication use.  The focus of these materials is to get your supporters to the polls.

Whichever level of services you need, everything listed above is provided free of charge.  We consider it our role to help make the project happen, so we can apply our knowledge, skill, and expertise for clients to improve their schools.

 

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Tags: Schools, Construction Management

Preparing for Michigan Schools’ Safety in 2020

Posted by Cory Sursely on 11/19/2019

MeridianElEntrance-2Over the last year, a lot of action has happened to make K-12 schools safer for students in Michigan.  While still in office, Gov. Snyder implemented legislation for a School Safety Task Force.  The Task Force has been meeting to oversee School Districts and their Safety Plans for each of their buildings.  Schools are required to have their plans in place by January 2020.  Also, as part of the Legislation, starting in 2020, new construction and renovation plans for schools have to be shared and consulted with their local law enforcement agency for their evaluation from a safety standpoint.

In August 2019, the Michigan State Police (MSP) published their Expanded School Safety Summary List, which includes a breakdown of the legislation and their recommendations to improve the safety of school buildings.  Also, in March 2019, the MSP issued the largest number of safety grants to applying School Districts for safety improvements.  Since 2015 (as part of the same program), the MSP has distributed $56M to 556 recipient schools.  The majority of schools have used their grants to improve their secure entrance, install security cameras, apply shatterproof film on windows, and provide more training.  In addition to these improvements, law enforcement emphasizes that schools install solid classroom doors with commercial grade locks that can be secured from inside the classroom, the ability to communicate outside a locked classroom, wayfinding or labeled areas of the building to quickly narrow down an area within the building for police, and vehicle barriers at entrances.  We would add that an automated system can help staff monitor their camera feeds and control access within the building from an off site laptop.  Schools can benefit from peace of mind when being able to monitor or being notified of movement within a building when there shouldn’t be any.

Wolgast Corporation will continue to manage the construction of schools with safety of students and staff in mind while working along with team Architects to follow with Michigan State Police and the Safety Task Force consultations and recommendations.

 

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Tags: Schools, Construction Management

Tips to Pass a School Bond Election

Posted by Cory Sursely on 9/4/2019

vote-1319435_1920We have found that there’s not a single formula to passing a school bond vote.  Every community is different in regard to their support of their school district, so each campaign needs to be tweaked and managed.  However, Wolgast's School Facility Specialists have discovered a couple of tactics over the years as former School Superintendents on how to give every bond campaign a better chance for success and offer their expertise as part of our Pre-Bond Services.

First, the most important aspect of a success­ful millage election is staff and community involvement in the planning process. With that said, the likelihood of the passage of a millage proposal is determined days and even months prior to the election.  The devel­opment of the bond proposal, the inclusion of groups that will be af­fected by it, along with the marketing plan and execution are all key ingredients that will help lead to a successful election.

Another key is to focus on the supportive voters rather than spending your budget or energy on converting the opposed voters.  Then help the supporters by reminding them of registration deadlines, and when and where to vote.

Sometimes Districts can qualify for state and federal funding programs to help supplement building projects.  When qualifying for the additional funding, School Districts were able to ask voters to approve smaller bond amounts while securing enough budget to complete their construction needs.  Bond elections pass as voters recognize the savings to their District’s general fund to help maintain safety and educational programs.

To find out more about the funding programs or to have a free seminar with our School Facility Consultants please call 800-WOLGAST.

 

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Tags: Schools, Construction Management, the Wolgast Way, Financing Construction