Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer

Construction of a new early childhood center for the Washington School District will get under way later this month.

The school board last Wednesday morning awarded a $4.1 million contract to Lawlor Corporation, St. Louis, for the project.

The bid includes six alternatives for two additional classrooms, an overflow parking lot, paving of a fire loop road, classroom cubby cabinets, LED lighting and vinyl plank flooring.

The approximate 25,000-square-foot early childhood center will be built on the Washington West Elementary campus. It will house the intown preschools, the Parents as Teachers program and early childhood special education.

“I am so excited about getting started on this project — early education and intervention is so important,” Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer told The Missourian.

The target completion date is May 2014, so school officials will have that summer to clean and move the departments in by the start of the 2014-15 school year.

The building will have approximately 14-16 classrooms and other rooms to conduct screenings and offices.

The overflow parking will benefit both the center and Washington West Elementary, especially during evening concerts and programs.

School officials previously said there are no definite plans on what to do with the small house on the campus. However, early childhood special education will no longer be located in the trailers on the campus.

Mark Reuther of Hoener Associates, the district’s architect, was present at Wednesday’s meeting. He told the board that 16 general contractors requested bidding documents and 12 bids were received. The bids were opened June 18.

“We were extremely happy with how the bids came in,” Reuther said. “We met with the two lowest bidders, Lawlor and Wright Construction Services, and discussed the project and the alternatives.”

The district has worked with Lawlor in the past, he noted.

Reuther said work is expected to get started immediately.

Board member Brian Sumner asked if the early childhood center would have a safe room or some other area in the event of a tornado.

Reuther said no, explaining that safe rooms are not required by the state and are extremely expensive to construct. He said in the event of a tornado, students would be moved to an interior wall in the classrooms. The center will not have a basement.

The architect did note the building will be very secure in terms of access to the building and classrooms. The building also is being constructed to allow for future expansion if needed.

School board members said they were pleased with the bids received, and that the project is coming in under estimate. The district also will be eligible for state reimbursement for the square footage for the early childhood special education area.

Sumner said he couldn’t be more pleased to see an early childhood center built.

“Early childhood education is so critical and now (all three programs) will finally have a home,” he said.

The project is being paid for through a $9 million bond issue approved by voters this past April. Other bond issue projects include HVAC renovations at Augusta Elementary; a four-room addition at Marthasville Elementary; and a wireless infrastructure upgrade districtwide.