UPPER MARLBORO – After numerous delays, the Tulip Grove Elementary community may finally see movement in the school’s renovation project.
Last week, during the Price George’s County Board of Education meeting, the board approved the much-delayed contract for the renovation of Tulip Grove after the initial award was disputed.
“Once the board approves, the state will approve it and then we’ll move to proceed,” said Wesley Watts, chief operating officer at Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS). “We’re hoping to carry this to the state tomorrow and go from there. It should happen right away. ”
The renovation of the elementary school has fallen victim to a number of delays since the project was announced in 2011 and students were moved to the vacant Meadowbrook school building in 2014.
The multi-million dollar contract is not to only renovate the aged school building but to increase the size of the school by more than 20,000 square feet. In doing so, the plan is to add several new specialized classrooms for science and computer labs. A new gym and cafeteria are also in the plan, according to the Tulip Grove website.
The project is expected to take up to 16 months to complete once the official contract is passed and signed. With the contract passed by the board last week, it will finally go to the state for approval.
“It really means a lot, only because this is something that’s been in the works for so long and, like I said, this is a project that was supposed to start years ago and it’s just now starting to get back off the ground. So I’m really hopping for a smooth, quick, efficient process because it’s not fair for the members of the community who have worked so hard to fight for this school, to have to wait even longer,” said Raaheela Ahmed, board member for District 5, where Tulip Grove resides.
The approval of the contract came more than six months after the contract was struck from two summer board agendas, in July and August. Those eliminations were due to the award being contested by another firm.
Will Smith, the project’s supervisor for PGCPS, sent a letter home to Tulip Grove families in September that detailed the bid protest, saying there were issues with clarification of the original bid
The original solicitation to bid was issued on June 7, with the actual bid opening on July 11.
“Due to the amount of bid clarifications and addenda issued, the decision was made to extend the bid opening date to July 20. The extension was provided to allow sufficient time for the contractors to review the clarifications and make adjustments to their proposals,” Smith’s letter reads.
The later deadline yielded two bids from Tuckman-Barbee Construction Company Inc. and Keller Brothers Inc., with Tuckerman bringing in the lower bid. They were selected as the recommended contractor, but the company submitted a request to withdraw before the Aug. 25 meeting due to a numerical error.
Both companies were then asked to submit a “Best and Final Offer,” after which Tuckman-Barbee was again selected and Keller Brothers submitted a letter protesting the award, meaning PGCPS would have to again put out a request for proposals.
This time around, the scope of work was released on Dec. 12, 2016, with the pre-bid meeting conducted at the site on Dec. 20 and the public bid opening on Jan. 27. PGCPS received two bid responses, from Dustin Construction and Keller Brothers.
“After evaluation and analysis of the two responsive bids, Keller Brothers, Incorporated was determined to be the lowest responsible bidder,” board documents read noting the contract award is for $21 million. “The award of the contract is $1,700,000 less than the lowest received bid from the previous advertisement for construction services in July 2016 and within the approved project budget.”
If all goes according to plan, students may have a newly renovated school to attend for the 2018-2019 school year, nearly four full years after moving to Meadowbrook. And Ahmed said the Bowie community is ready to see progress made.
“I’ve seen excitement to finally get the project started,” she said.
Both the Tulip Grove community and Bowie’s leaders have advocated strongly for the renovation and have been anxious to see the project get off the ground. And with all the delays, Ahmed said some have lost trust in the system and PGCPS, and the board will have to work hard to bring some citizens back.
“It’s bittersweet in a way because all of that memory of the past few months and years is really set in folks’ mind and you can’t blame that feeling,” she said. “Trust is a process and redeveloping that trust is really going to take a lot of effort from this system to engage with the community.”
However, Ahmed said Smith came to the Tulip Grove parent meeting last week to ensure the community they will be involved in the renovation process through updates and walkthroughs of the building. With that in mind, Ahmed said she has high hopes for the project despite the delays.
Ahmed even sees a silver lining in the Tulip Grove delays – the amount of advocacy it created.
“It’s amazing to see. Sometimes the situations are unfortunate in the ways they come about, but at the end of the day, I think it yields beautiful results for students,” she said.