Federal Way bucks the economy with Sunnycrest school construction

Artistic rendering of the new Sunnycrest Elementary School in Federal Way. - Courtesy image
Artistic rendering of the new Sunnycrest Elementary School in Federal Way.
— image credit: Courtesy image

The Federal Way School District is experiencing the advantages of a poor construction economy. Once again, the district approved a contract for the rebuilding of a school with all the alternatives included.

When the district bids on a construction project, there is a list of certain alternatives that could be cut if the project gets too expensive. So far in the recent remodeling/rebuilding of schools, the district has been able to build all of the alternatives — while remaining under budget.

That seems to be the case for Sunnycrest Elementary School.

There were 12 contractors that bid on the project and all were within the same cost range. However, the lowest, with the alternatives, was Babbit Neuman Construction Company, which has already completed Panther Lake and Valhalla. Their base bid was $9.8 million. With the alternatives, the bid is for $10.8 million.

Some of the alternatives include:

• Interior fabric lampshades.

• Additional acoustic treatment in corridors.

• Additional landscaping.

• A path to City of Kent park.

• An accelerated construction schedule.

• Different exterior lights.

Babbit Neuman has proved successful for the district in the past. Both the schools they have built were done on time and on budget, despite bad weather conditions at times.

"It was all very competitive," said school board member Suzanne Smith, who attended the bidding. "We were doing the math very quickly to see who had the low bid."

Sunnycrest Elementary was originally built in 1965. The groundbreaking ceremony will take place at 6 p.m. June 10 at the school, 24629 42nd Ave. S.

The budget for the entire project is $17.5 million. The $10.8 million construction bid is just under what the district had budgeted for that part of the project. The remainder of the budget is spent on what is called soft costs: Sales tax on the construction, furniture and fixtures, architects' fees, project management fees and so on.

During construction, Sunnycrest students will be housed for one year at Manhattan Elementary School in the Highline School District in Burien. All students will qualify for district transportation, including current walkers.


Sunnycrest was one of the harder projects to plan. The district discovered that building adjacent to the current school, as had been done at Valhalla and Panther Lake, wasn't possible at Sunnycrest. The only viable land for building was where the current school sat. After looking at options and speaking with parents, the district decided to move the entire school to Manhattan Elementary School in the Highline School District. The move will last a year while the new Sunnycrest is built. Manhattan is a vacant school that Highline has used in the past to house students while schools are being rebuilt. It is located about 6 miles from Sunnycrest at 440 S. 186th St. in Burien.

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