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When will your school finally be renovated? Look it up on the new schedule

Sun Sentinel logoSun Sentinel 1/30/2021 Scott Travis, South Florida Sun Sentinel
a person standing in front of a building: Workers remodel the media room at James S. Rickards Middle School in Oakland Park on Friday, Jan. 29, 2021. The Broward County School district has released a new school-by-school timeline for when work is supposed to be done, and it's expected to take at least until 2026. © Carline Jean / South Florida Sun Sentinel/South Florida Sun Sentinel/TNS Workers remodel the media room at James S. Rickards Middle School in Oakland Park on Friday, Jan. 29, 2021. The Broward County School district has released a new school-by-school timeline for when work is supposed to be done, and it's expected to take at least until 2026.

This was the year when the Broward School District promised taxpayers that repairs would be finished at 233 schools.

Most are nowhere near it.

With only 20 schools completed, it’s time to reset the schedule, says AECOM Technical Services, a company hired last year to take over management of the $800 million bond program,

Almost every project has been delayed, some by nearly six years from their original completion dates, under a new timeline drafted by AECOM that’s supposed to offer a more realistic timetable. Twelve schools won’t be finished until 2026, a full five years after the work was supposed to be complete, the schedule says.

“To say there have been delays would be an understatement,” said Adam Rabinowitz, chairman of the district’s Bond Oversight Committee.. “The public at large is dismayed.”

Parents and teachers for years have complained of mold, flooding and erratic air conditioners. The delays, combined with flawed estimates, have put the program nearly $500 million over budget.

The three decaying schools that were considered the poster children when the bond was pitched to voters in 2014 are still far from being finished. Construction at Northeast High in Oakland Park is only 7% complete and isn’t expected to be done until late 2023. A new building planned for the school won’t be ready until 2024, according to the schedule.

Blanche Ely High in Pompano Beach won’t be complete until late 2022, while Stranahan High in Fort Lauderdale must wait until the fall of 2022. A new Stranahan cafeteria won’t happen until 2023 and could be smaller than expected, due cost overruns and declining enrollment.

It’s been a long frustrating wait for people at Stranahan, who were told in a 2015 community meeting that work should be complete by 2017. Construction finally started in mid-2018 and has been slow and disruptive, said Thomas Harrison, the school’s athletic director.

“It’s like an a house guest who has overstayed their welcome,” Harrison said. “We want construction workers off campus. We want things to get back to normal. It’s definitely taken a long time.”

More than 100 schools are still waiting for construction. Among the ones facing the longest delays are Oriole Elementary in Fort Lauderdale, Sheridan Park Elementary in Hollywood and South Plantation High, which all are planned to be finished in 2026, more than 5 1/4 u00bd years later than what was listed in a 2017 schedule.

Western High in Davie faces a similar delay, although a culinary arts lab that was part of the project was expedited and finished a year ago.

This is the second time the entire schedule has been overhauled since the district first set targeted completion dates in 2017. The first reset came in late 2018 after the district ousted then-Facilities Chief Leo Bobadilla due to problems with the bond program.

Although Superintendent Robert Runcie said last spring he expected the pandemic would allow the district to expedite much of the work that’s fallen behind, progress was limited, officials said.

The district was able to catch up on some roofing projects, since schools were empty for seven months in 2020, but air conditioning installation faced slowdowns as COVID-19 led to worker shortages, Frank Girardi, executive director of capital programs, told the Bond Oversight Committee on Monday.

“In the manufacturing plants, if someone on the line got sick, the whole line shut down,” Girardi said.

That delayed construction of new buildings at Cypress Bay High and Falcon Cove Middle, both in Weston, he said.

Other issues blamed for delays include a dearth of qualified vendors. Many vendors have said in public meetings and interviews that they refuse to work with the district, because they often don’t often get paid on time or their plans to get stuck for months in the district’s inspections department. These issues are under investigation by a statewide grand jury.

Some contractors are turning in poor quality work but still get rehired, said Kathleen Langan, senior program director with AECOM,

“We’re experiencing problems with vendors and contractors who simply cannot seem to perform,” she said. “That has to change.”

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