By: Raul F. Perez, Chief Facilities Design and Construction Officer and Carl Nicoleau, Chief Maintenance Officer, Miami-Dade County Public Schools
When voters overwhelmingly approved the General Obligation Bond Referendum in 2012 to fund much needed renovations and replacement of schools, expand student capacity, enhance safety, and provide technology upgrades, we at Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) promised to deliver all projects on time and on budget. That commitment has not wavered in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic; in fact, we remain hard at work.
The unprecedented closure of schools was a difficult, but necessary transition that has impacted students and their families, as well as employees. However, it has also enabled us to accelerate construction projects and maintenance before our students and teachers return to the classroom.
When this pandemic began, we approached each of our contractors, advising them that the schools they were improving were vacant and available for a more rapid renovation and replacement timeline than typically possible when facilities are in use. Together, we created a thoughtful and deliberate plan to speed up project timelines to reduce construction time and save tax dollars. We currently have accelerated construction occurring at 39 school sites. One example of a project that will be completed earlier than promised is the significant renovation of Miami Palmetto Senior High. This includes the remodeling of the auditorium, demolition of existing buildings, addition of bathrooms and various other improvements.
The continuous work during this shutdown has also assisted contractors in providing stable employment in our community. Between 300 to 530 workers are on our sites daily. We are also out to bid with several projects, allowing us to generate additional job opportunities, with high goals for local, minority and small business utilization.
Safety has been, and will continue to be, our top concern. M-DCPS employees have quickly adapted to working remotely to continue moving forward with the design, planning, and construction projects in our schools. We have also put in place stringent protocols, following public health guidelines, to prioritize the health and wellbeing of workers on our sites. These include the installation of hand washing stations, routine environmental cleaning, and requirements to adhere to all social distancing, personal protection equipment, and trash disposal guidelines.
In addition to accelerated construction projects, M-DCPS has been diligently focused on maintenance and sanitization efforts at school sites across the district. Our maintenance personnel are working in full force and are following social distancing guidelines and utilizing personal protection equipment. We are especially concentrating our efforts on heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, plumbing, security camera repairs, and inspection of hurricane shelters.
We are grateful to the taxpayers who support our efforts to provide safe, clean, upgraded facilities for all children. We have every intention to continue operating in a diligent and accelerated manner to provide the best possible school environment for students and employees, once it is safe for them to return.