Key Aspects of Public School Rehabilitation Projects

West Group Law is pleased to announce that it has been retained by a major northeast capital city as lead counsel for a roughly $300 million public schools improvement project. The project includes ground-up construction of a number of brand new, state-of-the-art public schools, rehabilitation and refurbishment of dozens of existing school buildings and facilities, and acquisition of various parcels of privately owned property. This project engagement follows years of public building and school construction experience and a nearly $1 billion portfolio of similar projects for WGL attorneys.

The process of public school construction is complicated, with drafting and negotiating complex, intricately tailored Design/Build Agreements being a major component of such a project. However, plenty of other aspects of school construction require just as much attention from experienced legal professionals. Compliance with environmental school siting requirements is essential, which requires consideration of various environmental laws, rules and regulations. From the United States Environmental Protection Agency, to state environmental departments, to local environmental committees, municipalities must be sure to comply with a wide array of stringent environmental requirements.

Additionally, site control is another area of paramount importance to a successful school construction project. If the municipality does not already own a proper site for new school construction, long-term leasing of privately owned property and property donation are alternative options. Ground-leasing provides an alternative to purchasing additional municipal real estate and offers a mechanism for spreading site-acquisition costs over decades in the form of rental payments, allowing municipalities to avoid the major upfront expenditures associated with purchasing real estate. In accepting donated property, municipalities should be aware of the valuable consideration they can offer in return for a donated parcel of land.

Furthermore, a host of considerations also arises with respect to ancillary appropriations and procurements for school construction projects. Various due diligence matters, such as surveying the property and obtaining an environmental site assessment, will again trigger state and/or municipal procurement laws. Perhaps a municipality allows certain small purchases to be effectuated without formal approval and award, or perhaps a municipality has a list of preapproved vendors. Nevertheless, each and every ancillary procurement must comply with applicable state and local law.

Finally, another factor to consider is community support. In some jurisdictions, constituents will have numerous opportunities to weigh in on important school construction projects. Understanding development issues critical to communities and garnering support from such constituents at the outset of a school construction project will, at the least, allow the project team to develop strategies for integrated project success.

Ultimately, it is important to know the key aspects of a school construction projects and to ensure proper attention is given. Doing so will ensure that specific issues at the proper times throughout the project’s course are resolved and will achieve the intended result, on time and within budget.