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Pre-fab modules could save district millions on Tonopah Elementary project, officials say

TONOPAH — Nye County Schools officials say they will consider pre-fabricated modules to lower construction costs and expedite the timeline for a new Tonopah Elementary.

Elements of the new school could be built mostly offsite by manufacturers in a controlled-setting warehouse and then trucked to Tonopah to be assembled there, they say.

It could saving the district millions in labor costs, materials and time on a project that would otherwise likely be delayed by weather.

“It’s not a portable,” Joe Schmidt, director of maintenance/operations, safety/security for the district told board members at a meeting earlier this spring. “It’s completely different from that.”

The pre-fabricated modules look like “regular construction” and have steel-framed bodies, Schmidt said, adding that some school districts in northern California have used the approach to keep construction costs down there.

Costs for the $21.5 million Tonopah Elementary project have ballooned by more than $6 million since officials approved construction of the project in January 2022.

“During the summer of 2022, we found the project to be too expensive to proceed,” Schmidt wrote in a summary to school officials in late April. “Much of the concern however, was based upon market conditions and unstable inflation. We decided to give the market some time to stabilize, in an attempt to move the project forward at a better economic time.”

But construction costs have not returned to pre-COVID levels and it’s been difficult to find a builder for the school.

Texas-based CORE Construction, which is the No. 2 school builder in the country, will be the general contractor for the project.

“CORE suggested construction methods whereby sub-assemblies would be constructed offsite, and moved in and assembled,” Schmidt said. “This reduces labor costs significantly and in combination with flexibility of construction materials and site arrangement we believed this would be our best chance at success.”

The company has reportedly identified at least three module builders for the project, and despite early setbacks, Schmidt said it’s still “doable” to open the building in fall 2025.

“We’re in pretty good shape right now to move to the next phase,” Schmidt said.

The project is expected to relocate the town’s elementary school from Idaho Circle to a 5.5-acre site at 1 Ray Tennant Drive near the high school.

The move will essentially create a centralized academic campus in Tonopah, serving pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade students. Preliminary renderings of the new Tonopah Elementary call for a playground in the back of the facility, two parking lots, and a bus drop-off lane. It’s also expected to include a library, along with nine classrooms for pre-K through fifth-grade students, and separate classrooms for art, music and special education instruction.

The new school is expected to feature a 4,500-square-foot multipurpose room, but not a gymnasium or kitchen.

Meals would be prepped for elementary students and staff at the high school’s kitchen and students and staff would be fed in the new multipurpose room that could also likely accommodate some indoor recreation activities.

The existing Tonopah Elementary is outdated, dangerous and isn’t fully compliant with modern disability laws. While a new school for students there has been talked about for years, many have been critical about the plans to rebuild it.

Area I Trustee Roger Morones, whose school board district includes Tonopah, said there’s an impression shared by many in his community that the new school will “never happen” and the millions budgeted for its construction “will stay in Pahrump.”

Email Editor Brent Schanding at bschanding@pvtimes.com

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