District picks backup plan for Gregori High

So it's on to Plan B for Gregori High.

Modesto City Schools officials said Tuesday that they were caught by surprise with bids of $102 million to $107 million to build the school, exceeding the funds set aside for a contract.

Those bids do not include off-site improvements the district must make, such as road work near the Salida campus.

Chief business official Debbe Bailey estimates the district will have $88 million on hand this school year for the school construction project, after payments are made to build a well and make some street improvements.

The plan is for Gregori High School to be a mirror image of Village I's Enochs High School, which cost about $80 million and opened in 2006.

Bailey said the district will proceed with its backup plan, called lease-leaseback construction.

"Our No. 1 priority is to not delay the project," she said. "We need to keep it on schedule and this is the only way we can see to do that."

That method would allow the district to agree on a fixed price of construction with a builder and pay back the cost of the school in monthly payments after construction is finished. Bailey said she expects the district will need to finance $12 million to $18 million as part of the lease program.

Three construction groups -- Acme Construction, Sundt Inc. and Turner Construction -- will interview with administrators this week to be considered for the lease-leaseback contract.

The lease-leaseback method does not require a competitive bid.

District officials said they hope to award a lease-leaseback contract to one of the three construction groups at the school board's Oct. 8 meeting.

"We're not going to slow this down," said Miguel Galvez, director of facilities, development and support. "Our plan is still (to open in) fall 2010."

A groundbreaking ceremony is set for Oct. 30, which also is the birthday of school namesake Joseph Gregori. Gregori, a former Beyer High School principal, died of a heart attack in 1998.

Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at mbalassone@modbee.com or 578-2337.