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Construction of Santa Maria's newest elementary can begin as early as March after the Santa Maria-Bonita School District board of education voted Wednesday to award the contract to a Santa Clarita-based general contractor.

Out of three bids submitted from companies hoping to build the district's 21st school, board members ultimately awarded the $40.7 million contract to AMG & Associates Inc., the company that built Jimenez Elementary School in 2015. Santa Barbara contractor ProWest Constructors originally planned to appeal to the board, in hopes of getting it to reconsider awarding the contract to AMG, but withdrew its plans Wednesday afternoon.

"We're looking forward to it — it's good to be doing another project for the district," AMG President Albert Giacomazzii said after the meeting. "[Jimenez] was a great project and we're glad to be back."

Discussions about placing a school in the Enos Ranch area can be traced as far back as 1999, with conversations ramping up after voters approved Measure T, a $45 million bond measure, in 2014. From raising the necessary funds and acquiring the land to finalizing the design with the California Division of the State Architect, Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Matt Beecher said the district has "been working ... for the better part of two years on getting to this point."

Though the contract was awarded for slightly less than $41 million, Beecher told board members that, when factoring the price of the land, construction management costs, and other necessary expenses (namely fixtures and materials), the total cost of the project will likely fall closer to $51 million.

With an estimated $6 to $7 million in Measure T funds already expended on other construction projects, district officials will need to tap other funding sources to fully finance the project.

"We’re going to be pulling from different pots of money that we set aside for capital projects to make sure we can fulfill this project to our voters," Beecher said, noting that additional funds may also be made available from the state through Proposition 51.

"We’ll end up $51 million by the time we’re done, which, for elementary schools in 2019, is a pretty good price," he added.

Currently home to more than 17,000 students, the new elementary will increase capacity for Santa Barbara County's largest school district. In addition to alleviating overcrowding at other district schools, the site will serve as the local neighborhood school for more than 300 proposed residential at Enos Ranch.

The proposed two-story campus includes 26 classrooms and will accommodate up to 900 transitional kindergarten through sixth-grade students, including Therapeutic Learning Program students. In addition to a large multipurpose room and enclosed food service area, the new school also will feature an outdoor learning space and a shared learning commons.

Giacomazzii said construction can begin (at the earliest) within 30 days. The project is expected to take 18 months to complete.

Mathew Burciaga covers education in Santa Maria and the surrounding area for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @math_burciaga

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Education Reporter

Mathew Burciaga is a Santa Maria Times reporter who covers education, agriculture and public safety. Prior to joining the Times, Mathew ran a 114-year-old community newspaper in Wyoming. He owns more than 40 pairs of crazy socks from across the globe.