NEWMAN - Yolo Middle School will soon be expanding with the addition of a new classroom wing.

School board members recently awarded a $3.5 million contract for the project to J.L. Bray & Sons, the original contractor who built the Hoyer Road campus.

“They are familiar with the site, and they were the low bidder by quite a bit,” said Superintendent Randy Fillpot.

Fillpot said he anticipates ground being broken on the project by the end of August, with the goal of opening the new wing at the start of the 2020-21 school year.

The wing will include six standard classrooms, an art room and restrooms.

Yolo is already using every available classroom and will welcome a particularly large sixth-grade class when school resumes Aug. 13, Fillpot said.

“The sixth-grade class is probably one of our largest groups of kids so they will feel a little pinch” until the new wing opens a year later, he commented.

In addition to boosting overall capacity, the new classrooms will give Yolo a dedicated art room (art classes are currently housed in a room designed for science) and allow the middle school to offer a greater number of elective courses.

“They will be very helpful. Yolo is going to a block schedule this year, and one of the things you do with a block schedule is to increase electives. That is tough because we just don’t have the space,” Fillpot told Mattos Newspapers.

Some $5.5 million in funds remaining from an $11 million bond re-authorization approved by Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District voters in 2016 were set aside for the Yolo project.

Fillpot said the original estimates placed the cost of the new wing at $4 million, but in light of escalating construction cost district officials were bracing that bids could be more in the $5 million range.

“The $3 million bids were kind of a surprise. Even if there are change orders, we are going to be quite a bit under what we anticipated,” Fillpot told the board.

If the construction costs hold true, he added, the district will have around $2 million in remaining bond funds to apply to other projects.

He attributed the lower-than-expected bids to the timing. The Yolo project comes at a time when contractors are finishing other projects and looking for new work, Fillpot indicated, rather than in the peak construction times when districts are competing for contractors.

J.L. Bray & Sons was the lowest of five bidders on the project by more than $300,000. Bids ranged from the $3.5 proposal accepted by the district to just under $4.5 million.

In terms of the logistics, Fillpot said, construction crews will utilize an eastern campus entrance off Fresno Street to avoid conflicts with regular school traffic.

He said the additional classroom wing will provide Yolo with adequate facilities for some time.

“I don’t think we will need to build anything else there for a while,” the superintendent reflected. “The next need will be at the high school, as that (enrollment) bubble comes through. Right now, they are using every classroom.”