By Alfredo Santana
LYNWOOD — By unanimous vote, the Lynwood Unified School District has voted to hire Huckabee, a construction management firm headquartered in Texas, to build a new a three-story facility to replace the defective G Building at Lynwood High School.
The 6-0 vote recorded at the school board’s March 23 meeting came following a series of interviews with four companies that submitted construction projects evaluated by a special committee formed to analyze qualifications, firm experience personnel assigned to the project and price.
According to public documents from the school district, Huckabee submitted the lowest bid, and was determined to be a responsive and responsible firm.
The district issued an initial payment to Huckabee for $2,346,635 from the $250 million the state’s Department of Education approved last July to rebuild the multi-classroom facility slated for demolition this summer.
Troubles for Lynwood High surfaced in June 2020, after ceilings of cement, plaster and aluminum bars called soffits collapsed to the ground in the G Building’s first floor, crushing two cars but sparing injuries at the campus on Imperial Highway.
The incident occurred while the school was vacant due to COVID-19.
Out of caution, district officials closed the school, and hired teams of architects to evaluate the building and other campus facilities.
They concluded that the G Building was shoddily constructed and several others had serious structural defects.
Among the risks, they pointed to chunks of cement falling from façades, loose air conditioning units installed, and faulty electrical wiring that forced a permanent campus closure.
Although the G Building’s physical structure was not compromised, the state’s Division of Architect ordered the district to tear it down after it was concluded that repairs would cost more than half of the building’s estimated reconstruction tagged at nearly $120 million.
“While I’m proud that we have continued to provide our students with high-quality educational opportunities under challenging circumstances, the damage done the LHS community was catastrophic and created a domino effect across the district,” Superintendent Gudiel Crosthwaite said in a statement.
“By selecting Huckabee, our board has taken a critical step in helping to make Lynwood whole again and returning our Lynwood Knights to a school they deserve.”
The G Building’s demise inflicted turmoil on a district also grappling with decreasing enrollment and an ongoing dispute with teachers who have rejected the administration’s offer to raise salaries by 5%.
The school district reported that 13,245 pupils were registered in 2019-20, while only 12,667 students enrolled in the 2021-22 academic year.
Following the unsafe campus reports, the district invested millions to refurbish and upgrade the old Lynwood High School campus on Bullis Road that was serving as Lynwood Middle School. Middle school students were relocated to other campuses in the district.
Before the G Building demolition begins, Huckabee and its construction management team will be tasked with reconfiguring the sports fields running parallel to the structure, along with rerouting water and sewage pipes.
“One of the very important timelines is that we’re looking to begin the demolition of the old building by June 15, to stay within the timeline,” said Gretchen Janson, assistant superintendent of business services at a recent meeting.
Janson said that California Public Contract codes require that construction projects of $200,000 or more be awarded through a formal bidding process, like the one the district launched from December through January with an advertisement and engagement campaign.
A timeline of events posted on the district’s website indicate that 24 construction firms visited the campus for an initial recognizance tour on Jan. 31, followed by 12 submitted reconstruction proposals.
Records from a study session board members held on March 14 indicated that 10 firms made it to the evaluation stage, where they were ranked as “most” or “least” likely to become the winner.
The four top scoring respondents were picked for final interviews.
Simplar, a procurement and management consultancy firm, tallied the points from the evaluation committee and came up with the four companies, ranked from one to four for recommendation to the board.
The study session records indicate that the final interviews considered the firm’s experience, key personnel experience, the personnel’s interview performance, and price and costs.
Also, licensed private investigators provided national screenings on the companies’ criminal activities, contract disputes, financial risks and reputation.
Huckabee is an architectural and engineering company with a portfolio of building classrooms, sports facilities and school offices at K-12 campuses, colleges and universities, with corporate headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas.
The school district estimates that removing the G Building will take about four months, and the campus will be ready to inaugurate the 70-classroom building and return to classes by fall 2027.
Before the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics measured annual inflation at 6% in February, district officials had priced the cost of tearing down the damaged building at $5 million.
Public relations officer Blair Landry said that the allocated state funds cannot be used for other district projects or campuses.
In addition, the replacement building will include a food arts center and special labs to study science, technology, engineering and math.