Round Rock ISD aims to speed up construction on McNeil High School

Construction on McNeil High School, pictured here in September 2018, is now in the final of its six construction phases.

Construction on McNeil High School, pictured here in September 2018, is now in the final of its six construction phases.

Communication with contractors on the last phase of long-anticipated updates to McNeil High School is getting a “reset” just months before the work is expected to be complete, according to Terry Worcester, chief operating officer for Round Rock ISD.

The RRISD board of trustees authorized the administration Oct. 17 to work directly with Cadence McShane Construction, the contractors hired to complete the upgrades. The board’s action, Worcester said, aims to increase efficiency on the project.

“In construction, issues move quickly,” Worcester said. “You need the flexibility to address situations quickly. Oftentimes, when you’re making decisions through the board of trustees, it takes agenda and meetings and motions. Decision[s] that have to move through the board can take several weeks.”

The RRISD board of trustees manages contracts with builders or general contractors on any district construction project, Worcester said. By authorizing the administration to work directly with Cadence McShane, Worcester is hoping for more flexibility in addressing issues as they arise, he said.

“We now have the opportunity, as the administration, to talk with the builder directly,” Worcester said. “Now, we have the authority to directly remedy needs within the project, to reset and to realign.”

Construction at McNeil High School has faced a series of unexpected setbacks. The discovery of caves underneath the site, which are home to a protected invertebrate species; permitting issues; and the addition of unplanned utility and site work have all contributed to the years-long project being more than $14 million over the original $28 million budget, a June 2018 audit found.

“With the ultimate accomplishment of this construction project—though it has been long and a challenge—it will be a wonderful facility,” Worcester said. “We’re very proud to be able to bring that to the students.”

The first five phases of construction included agriculture barn improvements; updates to student restrooms and locker rooms; heating, ventilation, and air conditioning renovations; and the addition of a special education wing.

Following the board action Oct. 17, the priority, Worcester said, is to complete the new music wing by the end of the year.

“We’ve been working at this for years,” he said. “There is some construction fatigue. This project has experienced many, many unforeseen situations."

Whether or not the final phase of the project, which includes remaining site work and administrative office improvements, will be on time and within the revised budget remains to be seen.

“That is part of our work now,” Worcester said. “We don’t know the answer to that question today.”
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