Priming Edwardsville High for grade A learning with award-winning construction

It’s been said many times before — our children are our future. After all, they’re the ones who’ll have the tall task of building a better world someday. And while many smart people have big disagreements on how to best teach arithmetic — Common Core, anyone — we can all agree on one thing: building world-class schools certainly won’t hurt students’ chances.

But just what does that look like, and how do you do it?

Well, school construction has many demands. Parents expect great learning environments. Administrators watch costs, security, quality and schedules. The community wants something that attracts residents. And the kids, well, there’s the important matter of the playing fields. To get everyone on the same page takes experience, commitment, passion and something we learned when we were in school ourselves — teamwork.

When Edwardsville High School in Edwardsville, Illinois sought to build a new high school, the job took all that and more, demanding strong solutions for some of the toughest project problems — an over-budget start, bad press and accommodations for advanced learning technologies.

Making headlines for all the wrong reasons

It’s a rare occasion that we don’t come into a project from the start, but in this case, we enter the story a little later than usual. By the time the Edwardsville School District chose The Korte Company as the second construction manager for its new high school, the project was already behind schedule, over budget and a source of criticism from the local papers. Needless to say, the stakeholders were none too happy with the start of the project, and we were called upon to steer it into the clear. Yep, we like the tough jobs.

Righting the ship with best-value solutions

As with many of our projects, we started with our most powerful tool: a good set of ears. The Korte Company immediately hosted a collaborative brainstorming session that included the school district representatives. This conference developed more than 400 value engineering ideas that saved $5 million right off the bat. Just as important, it set the stage for a team effort that saw a shared vision forge the project forward. Within one month, these ideas found their way into the project, and a short time later, the project was completed. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Getting the job done and delivering exceptional results

The School District had specific phasing requirements that required us to complete the educational wings first, the gymnasiums second and finally the auditorium. This was done in an effort to allow the students to access these areas and not disrupt normal school activities. As a result of the cost savings the project team delivered, the auditorium was added as the third phase.

The result was an award-winning school with:

  • A commons area
  • A science center
  • Art rooms
  • Band rooms
  • A 300-seat performance theater
  • A 3,500-seat indoor athletic facility with a running track, weight training room and aerobics room
  • Modern classrooms all wired to handle the latest educational technology

We’re proud to say the students were just as impressed as the faculty and administrators.

Some new hardware on our shelf

The Edwardsville High School project caught the attention of our peers and was recognized with a Construction Industry Cost Effectiveness Award for implementing cost-effective principles that incorporated owner involvement, innovation, modern management systems, new technology, team building and personnel training.

The project also received a Reader’s Choice Award for the finest example of craftsmanship and teamwork and, more specifically, the school was built to take advantage of modern electronic teaching and communications technology.

“The architects and Korte worked well together. That’s not to say they always agreed; they didn’t. And that’s part of the value that you’re getting from a Construction Manager — looking for areas where a building can be improved without sacrificing quality, can be improved from a cost perspective. And certainly we saw example after example of that.”

— Jim Speciale – President, Edwardsville School Board

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