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The 411 for Bidding on School Jobs

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According to the National Center for Education Statistics, as of 2015, there were approximately 98,277 public K-12 schools in the United States and another 34,576 private schools. That translates into hundreds of schools in each state. At different times, different school districts will have building projects going on or will be taking on repairs and upkeep. That means that you have an opportunity to bid on jobs with schools and potentially land ongoing maintenance contracts as well.

Schools May Be Required to Accept Bids

In many states, public school districts are required to accept bids on construction projects. The Ohio School Boards Association states, “Ohio law requires boards of education to advertise and take competitive bids for certain construction, repairs and improvements of school property.”

Although laws vary from state to state, most school boards do advertise open jobs and take bids. They may or may not go with the lowest bid. In fact, there are many different things that schools look at when choosing a contractor to complete work on a building.

In California, a state appellate court ruled that no-bid contracts were illegal. Instead, schools are required to use a competitive bidding process. In an article by Jill Tucker for the San Francisco Chronicle, lawyer Kevin Carlin argued that using a process that avoids competitive bidding was basically a cover up. He said, “Such arrangements have created a pay-to-play culture … a system that encourages fraud, corruption, misuse of public funds and lack of competition.”

The decision by the courts that school districts must accept bids is good news for contractors wanting to get into school building projects.

School Job Bids

Bidding on school jobs has some similarities to bidding on other commercial jobs yet is also entails some differences.

J. Jones, a former board member of a suburban school district in Indianapolis had the opportunity to review numerous bids during his time on the school board. “There was always one thing that was of the utmost importance to me when looking at bids.”

Jones shares that it wasn’t that the contractor had the lowest bid or even that he would complete the project the fastest. Instead, he looked at whether or not the contract had the experience to complete the project at a level that he would expect if his own children were in the building after the work was completed. “Will it be safe? Will it last?” he added.

What to Include in a Bid for a School Job

When bidding on a job for a school, no matter how large or small the job, keep in mind that there is a lot more to the bid than numbers.

Jones said, “When I looked at bids for any type of building or maintenance project in the district, I looked at so much more than just a bottom-line cost. I looked at experience of the contractor and how much thought the company put into creating the bid. How detailed it was, for example.”

Start with Why You’re the Best Choice

Be sure to include in your bid proposal why your company is the best choice to complete the job. This can include previous experience with other commercial projects, the fact that you have children in the school district and care about the finished product, or anything else that is pertinent and will grab the committee’s attention.

Add Lifetime of Project Cost Analysis

Another thing you should include in your bid is approximately how long the project will last. If you are bidding an HVAC replacement, include details that analyze the cost of the project verses how long the repairs will last. Show that you understand that repairs are not a one-time thing and that you are trying to present the most cost-effective option for more than just this moment but for long term savings. A unit that only must be replaced every 20 years on average instead of every 10 may be much more attractive to school board members.

Give a Time Estimate and Special Considerations

Include info on approximately how much time the job will take to complete. This can be avital part of the decision-making process as many schools now have year-round attendance. The shorter amount of time you can safely complete the project, the better. Construction can be quite distracting to students. You may also want to include special considerations such as that you will work later in the day, weekends, or some holidays in order to complete most of the work during a time when it won’t interfere with students’ learning.

Give a Solid Number and Proposal Details

Be sure to include a cost estimate and exactly what that bid includes (unit, labor, maintenance, etc.). The clearer you can be with your details, the better.

“Many times, officials will look at all the bids and then narrow the choices to two or three,” Jones explained. “If you want to be in that short list, make sure your bid is detailed. If I have questions about the bid, it is probably not making it onto the short list.”

Bidding on school jobs is a good way to build relationships in your community and secure lucrative contracts with ongoing maintenance deals. With just a little shift in focus, you can write successful school bids.

Author’s Note:Lori is a freelance writer for ACCA Now. She has a BA in English and PhD in Journalism and have been published in several magazines.


Lori Soard

Posted In: Opinion

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