Wolgast Blog

Dos and Don'ts of School Bond Campaign Materials

Posted by Cory Sursely on Tue, Apr 26, 2016 @ 10:06 AM

For more than 20 years we’ve been helping schools to pass their bond elections, and going back further than that, our Education Facility Specialists are former School Superintendents who have worked on their own campaigns while leading their respective Districts.  We have a lot of experience and want to help you know what works and what doesn’t when you’re creating your school bond campaign materials.

The significance of your bond communication materials is to get accurate voting information to supporters.  It’s important to include the date and times of the vote and locations of precincts.  Most schools also include reminders of voter registration dates, tax increase charts and descriptions of school improvements, however just reminding supporters to vote is the key to this part of the campaign without being polarizing to the “no” or “undecided” voters. 

BondBrochure.jpgSometimes using graphics can be a double-edged sword.  For instance, showing disappointed faces or the problems with the existing school may make supporters feel more compelled to vote, however, opponents or undecided voters may feel that it’s emotional propaganda and stir them to turn against the goals of the District.  It’s better to stick to the facts and break down how minimally the tax increase will change, if that’s an option.  Using neutral graphics of pie charts, graphs, blue prints, or your mascot may be better choices.

Other schools fill in a tri-fold brochure with the list of projects that will be completed if the bond passes, and/or the verbiage of the ballot language.  This is all good content as long as you also ask the recipient to vote and remind them of the date, time and location.  You want to get all of your supporters to the voting booth on the right day because every single one may be necessary to get the bond passed.

With Wolgast on your construction team, our bond campaign experts will help guide you through the pre-bond phase and share our experience on how to pass a school bond.  Please contact Rich Ramsey for more information, rramsey@wolgast.com.


Tags: Schools, Construction Management

How Technology Updates Change Schools

Posted by Cory Sursely on Wed, Mar 16, 2016 @ 10:00 AM

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

What to Do with an Old School Pool?

Posted by Cory Sursely on Tue, Jan 12, 2016 @ 11:53 AM

PoolBlog.jpgSchool Districts with older pools that no longer pass inspection, or pools that are simply underutilized, we have an answer to your dilemma. Other School Districts who have faced this problem just closed the door to their pool room, others use the pool shell to store old desks, chairs, old athletic equipment, general storage, etc., but this is obviously not the most efficient use of space. Plus there is still additional expense of insurance coverage and for the heating costs of the large area.

So why do they keep the unused pool shell? Because the cost to update is typically too much for schools that are already financially strapped. When you consider the expense of demolishing the concrete around the pool to gain access to cracked tubes, digging deeper and wider to comply with new regulations (in some circumstances), then rebuilding or resurfacing the pool walls/floor, it could reach $1M to get it functioning again. Plus, the shrinking of some Districts or the lower interest in swimming can make it less appealing to keep up with maintenance costs. So what’s a School District to do?

In the last few years, we have remodeled pool areas for a handful of School Districts. At Northview Public Schools, we converted their existing pool into a fully functional community fitness center including a 3-lane walking/jogging track.

Northview had several issues with their existing pool. The ceilings and lighting needed updating; the bleachers needed to be replaced; the diving well was not deep enough; there were not enough lanes; and it was costly to maintain. As a part of their 2011 Bond Planning, the District sought voter approval to build a new Natatorium that would include a new swimming pool and convert the existing pool space into a fitness center that the community would be able to utilize.

The Community supported the proposal and the project began with infilling the existing pool; laying down athletic sports flooring; adding new fitness equipment; replacing existing windows with new, more efficient windows; and later completing the 3-lane suspended walking / jogging track.

A new 13-lane competition pool was completed with enough pool depth to support diving and a shallow area that is used by the Community Swim Group.

At Mt. Morris Consolidated Schools, the District decided that they no longer needed the pool, but could use room for an auxiliary gym instead. This would have required an addition to their school to make room if they hadn’t decided to modify their pool area as an alternative. We also in filled the pool and created a solid level surface with a rubber gym floor to morph the room into their needed gym space. Without the pool, the district is now able to hold practice at reasonable hours for all sports, they’ve eliminated the additional maintenance, HVAC, and insurance cost also.

Similarly, at Montrose Public Schools, we converted their pool into a needed auxiliary gymnasium space with a wood gym floor. Other schools have been able to convert their old pools into dry storage space.

If your School District has an underutilized pool or one in a state of disrepair, this may be the solution for you and as experienced Construction Managers of old school pool conversions, we are the team for you to contact! Please call Rich Ramsey at 800-965-4278 (800-WOLGAST) to discuss your options.

Tags: Schools, Construction Management, Risk Management

What Security & Safety Mean for Today’s Schools

Posted by Cory Sursely on Wed, Sep 30, 2015 @ 10:16 AM

When preparing for school construction projects, school leaders, construction managers and Three-Children-in-Hard-Hatsarchitects/engineers have big jobs in protecting kids; not only during the construction, but well after.

Not long ago, at a planning meeting for a bond election (and the associated ballot language), the terms safety & security were hot topics. The school board was seeking a way to state that they were improving security, but they wanted to make sure that the community knew they didn’t mean scanners and cameras to monitor the student body. They feared that parents would feel they were implying that the students were out of control and that there was a different kind of problem. What the board was asking to improve was a means to monitor the visitors coming into the building, increased visibility of who is in the building and that their parking/drop-off and playground areas are planned for safety. After much deliberation on the terms "safety" and "security", they were able to craft the language to clearly state what they meant.

We recently completed construction at Northview Public Schools in Grand Rapids, Michigan and they, along with Tower Pinkster Architects, designed a state-of-the-art school with increased security in mind. The design included adding a secure entry vestibule at the main entrance of the school. This is a double door entry system where once you enter the building you have to then enter the office prior to having access to the rest of the building. This is the only entry point of access to the building. Another design element addressing security is a more open floor plan with shorter lockers allowing clear visibility throughout the corridors.

Another hot safety/security topic is parking and student drop-off. With the ever increasing number of parents driving their children to school, we’ve seen a sizeable increase in traffic. The increase can lead to congestion and late, impatient drivers fighting for space with busses, which is unsafe for drivers as well as students who have to walk through the car/bus traffic. To address this issue, architects are now incorporating drop-off areas for parents separate from busses with one-way entry and exits into their design. This helps to eliminate the congestion so traffic can move smoother and kids aren’t darting between busses and cars.

The ever popular playground, one of the favorite places of every elementary schooler, is another safety concern. There are many safety requirements that need to be met including enough activity centers based on the age group and number of students. At Riverview Elementary & Brookside Elementary in Big Rapids, Michigan, the playground experts and engineers, Virdis Design, designed concrete curbs surrounding the play pad areas with ADA compliant sidewalk access, along with an under drain system complete with play safety surface. The under drain stone was 4” topped with 12” of play safety surface such as wood chips, which is more economical and doesn’t get stuck in tennis shoes like the rubber material does. Additionally, we were required to include a minimum 6’ fall zone surrounding the equipment should there be any trip and falls. Fall zones are determined by the installed equipment.

The best starting point for addressing security and safety concerns in schools is a facility study. A study determines what the District’s needs are in terms of security & safety (as well as a plethora of other items) which helps school leaders to prioritize the areas for improvements prior to taking it to a bond vote.

Furthermore on the safety topic, your construction manager is involved with all matters above, but they have additional safety procedures to keep in mind during construction. Keeping workers safe and school staff, students and visitors separate from construction activity, as well as monitoring who is on site to follow school security guidelines. Wolgast does this by coordinating with our safety committee, following our safety systems (i.e. having a safety plan and appropriate safety equipment on site), and conducting random safety inspections. We also require all contractors to have photo ID badges while on site, so they can easily be identified as part of our team.

Knowledge of threats to schools and its occupants increases the planning for security and safety. Therefore, school boards, architects/engineers, and construction managers continue to make improvements to create schools that are safer for everyone. To start your facility study, please contact Rich Ramsey or Tom Watson at Wolgast today - 800-WOLGAST.

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Tags: Schools, Construction Management, Construction Safety

School Bond Loan Fund Reform

Posted by Cory Sursely on Thu, Apr 02, 2015 @ 04:21 PM

forest-hills-interiorDue to School Bond Loan Fund Reform, a lock-out has been set that will prevent School Districts from borrowing a new bond issue from the School Bond Loan Fund, which is the typical way they get the funds to pay for updates and remodeling of their buildings. This lock-out isn’t set to expire until June 30, 2016 at the earliest. Another set-back to the program is that there’s a minimum (7 mill) total debt that must be levied in order to participate. This is a requirement for the School Loan Revolving Fund (SLRF).

In the meantime, what are School Districts who need improvements or updates at their facilities to do? If you’re one of the Districts who needs their HVAC updated to save money with a more energy efficient system, have safety concerns, or continue to lose students to Districts who have made improvements for a 21st Century Learning curriculum, you should know that you have funding alternatives to make improvements a reality.

Non-Qualified Bond Programs

The non-qualified loan program allows Districts to seek funding without having to go through the application process of the Michigan State Treasury Department.

o   The loan is subject to approval by the community; same as with a Qualified Bond.

o   Must meet the State Credit Rating (AA2/AA-) with their own District rating; would not be able to utilize the State’s Credit Rating.

o   A non-qualified loan does not count toward the 7 mill minimum for the SLRF.

o   The total non-qualified debt cannot exceed 15% of the District SEV.

o   Project would still need to be put out for competitive bidding

o   Project does NOT have prevailing wage requirements

o   Districts have the option to pursue funding and not wait for the School Bond Loan Fund Cap to be lifted


Wolgast has been helping Districts with funding with non-qualified loan programs for over 5 years. We will work closely with you to guide you through the process of securing a non-qualified loan.

Contact us at Wolgast to find out the benefits of looking into a non-qualified loan for improving your schools.


Tags: Schools, Construction Management, Financing Construction

Educational Enhancement the Wolgast Way

Posted by Cory Sursely on Wed, Mar 04, 2015 @ 10:42 AM
Educational Enhancement

As we hear more and more about STEM education and how important it is to expose your students to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math as fields of study, Wolgast offers programs to introduce construction practices to your students during our construction projects at your school.  We call it Educational Enhancement and it has the flexibility to be tailored to your students in many different scenarios.

Our School Facilities Specialists and Field Managers work with your Curriculum Director to create a unique experience for your students, either as a class in a group setting, as individuals in work study, or who as hired summer interns.  Classroom groups are able to visit the site and have an educational opportunity appropriate to their age group, to showcase construction as a profession and how their current studies apply to real world scenarios. Conversely, in the past, we have taken on senior level students who are interested in construction or a related industry as a profession and provided independent study or summer internships.

This is part of our School Construction Management services at no additional charge.  We feel that it's a great benefit for our school clients and also a great opportunity for the future of the construction industry.  Likewise, our Field Managers are happy to show-off to the kids what we’re doing and how it relates to their STEM studies.

Additionally, our Construction Management Department is significantly experienced in K-12 school construction.  By significantly specialized, I mean we’ve done over $2 Billion of in-place construction for K-12 schools throughout Michigan.  We know school construction and can teach your students real world experience on a building that is near and dear to them.

See an example of a program we developed for Northview Schools and one of their students who was interested in architecture as a profession.


Example of Educational Enhancement

Tags: Schools, Construction Management, the Wolgast Way

You Have Construction Service Options

Posted by Cory Anderson on Wed, Feb 27, 2013 @ 10:24 AM

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.


The Owner hires one firm to provide architectural design and construction services in a phased approach.  Oftentimes, the architect is a staff member of the construction company.  The design/builder becomes the single-source that is responsible for designing the building, hiring the subcontractors and coordinating the schedule and invoicing 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, 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 or those who know only a little about 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.


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. 

Click on the Prezi Presentation below for more information about your construction service options.


Construction Options on Prezi

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

Could a Facility Study Save Your School/Community?

Posted by Cory Sursely on Tue, Jun 12, 2012 @ 12:00 PM
Taking on Today's Challenges to Improve Outdated School Buildings

Facility Study Example

Many Michigan school boards and schools districts are facing the same problem, outdated buildings with fewer students and a community that already feels burdened by taxes.  Asking tax payers to take on a bond to make school improvements seems like it would be a big challenge.  Without the right information and resources, it is a much bigger challenge.

There have been numerous studies done over the years to determine the impact of worn out schools on students and teachers.  In The Department of Education’s, “Impact of Inadequate School Facilities on Student Learning”, the author reports that malfunctioning equipment, ventilation, heating/cooling systems, and lighting, as well as deteriorating buildings directly affect the focus of the students and the teacher’s ability to teach.  And as you probably know, engaged students in the classroom are less likely to skip school to seek other less than desirable things to do.  Plus it's easier to retain teachers who feel they are making a difference in their students.

So where do school board members start when they need to invest in their school?  They start by conducting a facility or feasibility study.  The best long term planning for schools starts with this a facility study.  This process includes a third party review of your buildings to determine where the biggest gaps are in order to bring outdated systems current and functional, make buildings more efficient, plus establish a budget to complete the updates.  Once you have your answers, you can start formalizing your plan to approach the community.

During a Facility Study, school districts should have evaluated:

• Architectural, structural, me­chanical and electrical engineering disci­plines of existing facilities
• Existing conditions and plans
• Current code requirements
• Current curriculum as it relates to space utilization
• Options regarding new construc­tion vs. renovation
• Present costs estimates for building reno­vation and new construction

You may wonder, who does facility studies or how do I find a firm to complete my study?  Typically a team of your Architect and Construction Manager will help guide the school district through the study.  As a Construction Manager, Wolgast has conducted facility studies for more than a hundred school districts throughout Michigan.  Not only do we evalu­ate the facilities, we assess the district’s needs based on enrollment, age, ability and activities of the students, curriculum objec­tives and instructional methods utilized.  Our team of experts can help complete these as­sessments and upon their completion pro­vide options for the district to decide what the best scenario is in order to reach its goals.

Bond Campaign Resources provided by Wolgast as your CM:

  Facility Study – as described above.

Campaign Assistance – our Educational Facility Consultants are former school superintendents who have been through campaigns themselves numerous times.  We work with you and the architect to formalize a plan and message to take to your community.

Communication Development – need a postcard or brochure to convey your message?  We can help design and print marketing materials for you.

Review of Funding Options – there are several options out there to help offset the cost to taxpayers and Wolgast can walk you through the process to obtain available funds.

Call Rich Ramsey or Tom Watson for more information, today – 800-WOLGAST (800-965-4278).


Tags: Schools, Construction Management, the Wolgast Way

Construction Safety on School Grounds

Posted by Cory Sursely on Tue, Apr 24, 2012 @ 08:54 AM


We’ve all heard that with great power comes great responsibility, but it’s especially true with the power equipment and tools used on school construction sites.  Student safety becomes a big deal as School Districts continue to make updates and renovate their existing/occupied buildings.  It’s a big deal also due to the increase of “strangers” who enter the school grounds to work on a construction project.  This is demonstrated by the increasing efforts of schools to qualify visitors before they’re allowed to enter school buildings.

Construction is considered one of the most challenging professions in the world.  With the equipment, variety of activities, and falling/tripping factors, it’s easy to see why construction is heavily regulated to keep workers and site visitors safe.  When we work on an occupied building, it’s safe to say that safety becomes a broader concern.  By following MIOSHA regulations and having safety plans, manuals, meetings and policies (as we do for every project), a construction site becomes very predictable and safe for anyone who may step onto it, including school kids.  On all projects, our Field Managers take great care to see that safety measures are met and at the end of the day sites are left in a manner that prohibits curious people from entering it or possibly hurting themselves.  Additionally, our Field Managers are required to maintain CPR and first aid certifications and Wolgast upholds zero tolerance for any substance abuse, which is supported by pre-employment and random drug testing for all employees.

Safety concerns don’t end with construction related activities.  We tend to the security of students in the building, too by using ID badges.  Badges are only issued to those individuals authorized to be on the job site.  We use these badges to help ensure that only people with a legitimate, project related purpose are granted access to the job site.

Admittedly, Wolgast has selfish reasons to be safe.  First and foremost, we appreciate having our co-workers and friends report to work healthy and happy every morning.  Secondarily, an excellent safety record and reputation helps us obtain future work and keeps insurance rates down.  We take it very seriously because safety never hurts!

We offer more information about how to avoid risky business during your construction project in the white paper Risk Management the Wolgast Way.

Download Whitepapers


Tags: Schools, Construction Management, the Wolgast Way, Scheduling, Safety on Site, Risk Management

Construction of New Tech High Schools

Posted by Cory Sursely on Thu, Feb 23, 2012 @ 01:58 PM

Meridian-Schools_newtech.jpgAccording to the New York Times, the majority of high school dropouts leave school because they don’t like it or weren’t interested in the classes.  A newer curriculum, New Tech, is trying to target those disinterested students, while still reaching those who are already college bound. 

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, “results on reading and science achievement, college acceptance rates, and behavioral indicators point to strong performance levels among many New Tech Schools”.  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”.

At the time of publishing this blog, only ten schools in Michigan had 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 renovating Ypsilanti New Tech High School and we will be managing the construction for Meridian New Tech High School in Sanford, Michigan this summer.

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.

2/2/16 Update:  Meridian Public Schools in Sanford became one of the earliest schools in Michigan to adopt the New Tech High School curriculum for their freshman class in 2010. They hired Wolgast 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 additition 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. 

Tags: Schools, Construction Management, the Wolgast Way