The Sherman Independent School District’s board of trustees gave the go ahead Monday night for a key, $20 million infrastructure project meant to literally pave the way for ramped up construction efforts at the site of the new Sherman High School.


The trustees green lit the project with a unanimous vote to approve contracted builder Cadence McShane’s guaranteed maximum price of $20.1 million. The figure includes $13 million for concrete paving and structural reinforcements, as well as the building of retaining walls and installation of utilities, fencing and pre-engineered materials. Board members Britton Brooks and Chanel Stiggers were absent from the vote. Sherman ISD Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations Tyson Bennett explained that since breaking ground on the site of the new high school in early August, the district has approached the overall build in three initial phases to help streamline the flow of equipment and materials on the site and lock in lower building prices.


“It’s about moving at the schedule we set, maintaining that pace and getting the best bids that we can to build the new high school,” Bennett said Monday.


The new Sherman High School will sit near the intersection of FM 1417 and the newly named West Travis Street, cost an estimated $157.8 million and is expected to open for classes in August 2020. The 450,000-square-foot campus is designed to support a maximum of 2,600 students and will feature an outdoor courtyard, athletic facilities, and science and career technology labs. Sherman voters passed a $176 million bond package, which included funds for the high school, with a 58 percent majority last November. The measure is meant to alleviate overcrowding at the high school with a brand new campus and to fund district-wide technology improvements.


Bennett said the board of trustees previously approved a separate $3.2 million project for earthwork and grading, which began at the site in August and will wrap up this month, as well as $3.4 million for utilities, which will be installed through February 2019. The assistant superintendent said both projects are slated to come in under budget, with a six-figure savings on each. And despite the recent, record-breaking rains seen in September and October, Bennett said crews have largely come in ahead of schedule on the earthwork phase.


“We were able to move fairly quickly during the first part of the phase, the earthwork phase, so we’re at a good time where we’re shifting to utilities,” Bennett said. “Obviously it needs to stop raining at some point, but if you drive by the site, you’ll see they’re still working. They have ways they can turn the top soil over and still work on that part of the site. They’ll also pump out certain areas that may be retaining water at that particular time of the phase.”


A proposal submitted by the district’s builder listed a December start date for the project approved Monday and anticipated its completion by next August. Bennett said the project is tentatively expected to come in $245,000 below budget and will be followed with one final financial vote by the district’s trustees, likely in January, on a GMP for the main academic building and athletic facilities. A figure for that project was not discussed at the meeting Monday.


Addressing the board, Bennett said although the the newly-approved infrastructure project wouldn’t be the largest undertaken in the name of the new high school, it was an integral step toward getting the campus built.


“This really is just the beginning,” Bennett said. “It’s really important work, but it’s just the beginning.”