The Richardson ISD board of trustees unanimously approved a guaranteed maximum price of more than $81 million for the construction of the new Lake Highlands Middle School during its April 11 meeting.

The first phase of the project was approved at a price of $81,167,525 and will consist of the complete construction of a three-story middle school on the existing site that can house 1,500 students. The second phase involves demolishing the existing school and redeveloping that area for the campus.

“We are very excited for this,” Assistant Superintendent Sandra Hayes said. “This is the first time that the district has taken on creating a new school since the early 2000s, with the exception of Memorial Park Academy. We're very excited to get this off and running.”

Construction on Lake Highlands Middle School is slated to begin as early as this summer, with the school open by August 2024, Hayes said.

District officials said that the existing junior high at 10301 Walnut Hill Lane in Dallas will be demolished once the new middle school is built. Other middle school amenities will be constructed in its place, including new paving and parking, flatwork, tennis courts, site lighting, and landscaping. The new site is estimated to be completed by the end of 2024, according to Hayes.

Proposals for Phase 1 of the project were first received March 17 with district staff, architecture firm Perkins & Will and Core Construction reviewing all submissions.

One factor that contributed to the guaranteed maximum price is the increased construction costs.

“Back in 2019-20, new construction in the metroplex was running around $300 a square foot,” Hayes said. “Currently at the price that we're seeing industrywide, the cost per square foot is about $350 now due to escalation. That’s what we’re seeing in the construction world and hearing from our neighbors that are also building schools.”

The district has budgeted $94 million for the entire project, including the demolition and repaving phase.

This improvement project is part of RISD’s larger middle school transformation plan. This large-scale renovations project is aiming to use facility adjustments at junior high campuses over the course of several years to make room for sixth graders, district officials said during a Nov. 15 meeting. The junior high campuses are currently used for grades seven and eight.

Trustees previously approved a guaranteed maximum price at a March 7 meeting for the Forest Meadow Junior High renovations. That construction is scheduled to be completed by July 2023, according to district officials. Forest Meadow Junior High is located at 9373 Whitehurst Drive in Dallas.

The goal of the middle school transformation project is to have construction completed at all campuses by the 2030-31 school year, according to a district presentation on the 2021 bond earlier this year. Funds from the 2021 RISD bond will be used to pay for the Lake Highlands and Forest Meadow projects.