Dondlinger confident new Southeast High will be ready for 2016-17 school year

An artist’s drawing shows the planned look for the new Southeast High School.
An artist’s drawing shows the planned look for the new Southeast High School. Illustration courtesy of Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey Architecture

A new Southeast High School should be ready to open by the fall of 2016, officials say.

But some parts of the project, including a district football stadium and other athletic facilities, may not be.

“We’re only dealing with the building right now, not the entire site. We’re not dealing with any of the surrounding athletic fields,” said Ken Arnold of Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey, the Wichita district’s bond manager.

“We’re building the building first because that’s what’s got to be done for the start of school … so that’s where the emphasis has to be at this point,” he said. “As we get nearer (to) getting all of the bids in for the building, that tells us what money’s left for the rest of the project, so those can be looked at as we go through this whole process.”

An initial agreement between the school district and Dondlinger Construction, which recently was awarded the Southeast High project, sets a “guaranteed maximum price” at $58 million and a “substantial completion” date of Aug. 1, 2016.

Arnold said the price is “only a target” at this point, however. In coming weeks, after Dondlinger officials review the architectural drawings and specifications for the new high school, an addendum to the contract will set out the actual maximum price for the building, he said.

“Hopefully it will be much less than that,” Arnold said of the $58 million figure, “but we don’t know at this point in time.”

When school board members approved the project last year, officials said the new school and athletic facilities would cost about $54 million. Since then, the estimate has risen to $60 million.

Bond managers said earlier this year that construction costs have risen from $130 per square foot in 2010 to about $170 per square foot.

Crews broke ground last month on the new Southeast High, at the corner of 127th Street East and Pawnee. It will be the first Class 6A high school built in the district since Northwest High School in 1978.

The new Northeast Magnet High, which opened in 2012 in Bel Aire, originally was proposed as a Class 5A comprehensive high school with a district football stadium and other outdoor athletic facilities. That project was scaled back in 2011, however, as the district dealt with reductions in state aid.

Because Northeast Magnet does not have athletic programs – students participate in sports at their base schools – the stadium and other athletic fields were never built at the site.

The last and largest project of a $370 million bond issue, the new Southeast is expected to accommodate 1,800 students and have all the amenities of most modern comprehensive high schools, including a football stadium, a gymnasium, a swimming pool, tennis courts and athletic fields.

Tom Dondlinger, president of Dondlinger Construction, said he is “excited” his firm landed the project and is confident the building will be done by the start of the 2016-17 school year.

“I think so,” Dondlinger said. “We have built two freestanding high schools, and so we have a sense for the difficulty and the time constraints.”

Dondlinger Construction was the general contractor for Goddard High School and Andover Central High School.

Dondlinger said the Southeast High project will “mean a lot of work for local subcontractors and suppliers.” At the peak of the job, there could be as many as 300 workers on the project site itself, he said, and more working behind the scenes.

“I think that’s going to be very important in the coming year,” he said.

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or Follow her on Twitter: @suzannetobias.

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