The Great Neck school board rejected bids for the creation of a new auditorium for E.M. Baker Elementary School last Thursday night, sending the large project back to the drawing board for a redesign and rebidding.
All 16 project bids the school district received were at least $2 million over budget, school officials said, meaning the project, which is expected to be complete by September 2020, will have to be re-engineered and sent out to bid again.
“It was considerably higher and a lot of that was attributable to the increased material costs [from tariffs] and contracts,” said Alfredo Cavallaro, the director of buildings and grounds for the Great Neck Public Schools.
A new auditorium, paired with cafeteria reconstruction and new toilet rooms, had an expected price tag of $5.73 million, according to bond presentations and a project list from 2017.
It had been scaled back by just over $1.16 million from an earlier proposal, school district officials previously said, which was part of an $85.3 million bond voters rejected in February 2017.
The project is one of the biggest planned with the $68.3 million bond referendum, as well as $9.5 million in school district reserves that were approved by voters in 2017 for critical infrastructure projects and building enhancements.
It is the largest among the total $26.14 million in enhancement projects and second among all projects in terms of price, with only a $6 million roof replacement for South High School expected to cost more.
The proposed auditorium would have 416 seats, the cafeteria reconstruction would expand its own seating to 276, and nearby toilet rooms would also see enhancements.
Cavallaro said the project could be transformative to the school, as students currently need to put on two or three shows to “satisfy the entire population.”
“There have been numerous additions onto [E.M] Baker and the school hasn’t been able to have a complete performance because of the size of the student body,” Cavallaro said. “But with the increased size of the auditorium it’s going to really impact the school community as a whole.”
E.M. Baker Elementary School’s school population has increased considerably in the last decade. State Education Department figures show enrollment has risen from 556 in the 2008-09 school year to an estimated 664 in the 2018-19 school year.
Cavallaro said the school district was looking into changing the finishes without altering the size of the space. The completion schedule, however, should not be affected.