Rivera Middle School conversion process advances

dyawger@mercedsunstar.comFebruary 13, 2014 

The process to convert Rivera Middle School to a kindergarten through eighth-grade campus moved along this week as approvals were given to continue architectural design and construction management services with the firm that built that school’s new gymnasium about four years ago.

At its bimonthly session Tuesday night, the Merced City School District Board of Education approved continuance of architectural and construction management contracts with the WLC firm, which designed and built Rivera’s joint-use multipurpose room in 2009-10.

Nearly five years ago, the company – with offices in Northern and Southern California – drafted plans for the Rivera K-8 conversion as well as the gym. At that time expansion plans were put on hold as the state’s recession began. Now the architectural plans, about 80 percent complete, will be updated and submitted to the Division of the State Architect for approval.

Greg Spicer, associate superintendent for administrative services, said there are new state codes and requirements since the Rivera plans were first drafted, along with increased construction costs expected over time.

Plans to build three new buildings to accommodate kindergarten through third-grade students should be submitted to DSA in about a month, and modernization plans to convert existing buildings to handle fourth through eighth grades will be submitted in a couple of months, Spicer said.

About $6.7 million remains in the Measure S bond fund, which will be used for the new buildings at Rivera.

Board member Adam Cox hopes the Rivera expansion-conversion project can be completed in a timely manner. An August 2015 opening has been targeted for the complex on Buena Vista Drive near R Street.

Once the Rivera project is done, plans outlined in the long-range facility master plan to shift the district’s sixth-graders to elementary schools can be accomplished. Moving sixth-graders to elementary schools will eliminate the need to build a new middle school.

The northwest portion of the city, specifically the Fahrens Park area, lacks an elementary school, necessitating the busing of young students to other campuses throughout the city. When the Measure S bond was promoted in 2004, one of the goals was to build an elementary school in that area.

Spicer said WLC will be paid $420,948 from the Measure S fund for the updated designs and another $74,677 to firm up actual costs for the project. It may take up to four months for the preconstruction work to be completed.

Board member Gene Stamm said the Rivera project appears to be on the right track. He expects preliminary site construction work at Rivera to start after school closes in June.

Sun-Star staff writer Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or dyawger@mercedsunstar.com.

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