The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board advanced a proposal Thursday to begin preparing bids for the reconstruction of Lee High School, but the board insisted it get the final say in declaring the winning bidder.
Board member Jerry Arbour said recent experience prompted his desire to have the board make this call, rather than leaving it to school administrators, which the school system customarily does.
“We did learn something with our last high school project,” said Arbour, referring to the renovation and expansion of Baton Rouge Magnet High School, completed in fall 2012.
In summer 2010, MAPP Construction of Baton Rouge underbid several other general contractors with its $45.9 million bid to build Baton Rouge Magnet, but soon was fighting with the school system, seeking more money for the project.
Soon after completion, MAPP Construction of Baton Rouge, the architects who designed Baton Rouge Magnet High, as well as a series of subcontractors, all ended up in court. MAPP argues it’s owed millions due to a faulty design, and unpaid subcontractors are suing to get paid.
The school system was itself sued this summer, becoming part of this web of litigation, which is still ongoing.
On Thursday, the School Board heard an update on that litigation behind closed doors, but made no public comment and took no votes on the matter.
The cost of rebuilding Lee High, which was recently demolished, is of a similar size and scope as the Baton Rouge Magnet High project. It is estimated to cost $53.9 million, with construction starting in the spring and completion in August 2015.
The plans call for housing about 1,200 students on the 26-acre campus.
On Sept. 26, the proposed design for the new high school was unveiled at a community forum held at the high school’s temporary home at the former Valley Park Alternative School.
Arbour’s motion on Lee High was approved 8-2, with board members Craig Freeman and Evelyn Ware-Jackson voting no. Board member Vereta Lee was out of the room and did not vote.
The board will take up the matter one more time when it holds its regular meeting Oct. 17.
Domoine Rutledge, general counsel for the school system, said he had no problem with Arbour’s motion, saying he would have suggested to have the board review a disputed bid.
Rutledge noted, though, that state law requires the winning bid go to the lowest responsible and responsive bidder.
Determining if a bidder is responsible is something on which courts have given public bodies “a lot of latitude” and past history with a vendor can be considered, he said.
“We’ll cross that bridge when it comes to that,” Rutledge said. “We’ll see who the lowest bidder is and go from there.”
The architectural design for the new Lee High is a joint effort of Grace & Hebert Architects, of Baton Rouge, and Kansas City-based architects with DLR Group.
The result is something more reminiscent of a small college than a traditional high school.
The design calls for four unconnected buildings collectively occupying 177,000 square feet.
The largest proposed building, at 60,000 square feet, is a Commons Building, which would include a cafeteria, gym, fitness area and a black box theater.
The theater would have a removable wall, allowing it be used as an outdoor theater.
The front three buildings are three-story academies, housing magnet programs for the digital arts and STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — that already are part of Lee High, as well as a new one focusing on biomedicine. Taylor said he is seeking corporate sponsors for each.
Each academy will educate about 400 students. The campus has room for a fourth academy that could be built in the future.
There are also plans for a courtyard and a soccer field, but no other outdoor sports facilities.