NEW LONDON -- A long row of manilla envelopes lined a table in the New London-Spicer cafeteria Tuesday afternoon as bids were opened on 37 different contracts for the school district’s $20.6 million construction project.

In a November referendum, district voters approved building a 650-seat performing arts auditorium and two-court gym at the high school/middle school and a new cafeteria/multi-use learning space and two new classrooms at the elementary school.

The district is using a construction manager, so instead of one bid from one general contractor, the project was broken down into 37 different categories that were bid as separate contracts.

“They range from the floor coverings to the structural steel to the precast concrete to the aluminum windows,” said Mike DeVetter, from DeVetter Design Group, which is the architect for the project.

The construction management team from Winkelman Building Corporation will crunch the numbers and extract true bid numbers from proposals.

That will take some time in areas where contractors bid on multiple segments.

“Even though some appear to be low bidders when you go through the original bid opening, it’s a little more complicated than that,” DeVetter said. “There are a lot of balls in the air.”

Overall, DeVetter said there was a good response from bidders on large packages including mechanical, electrical and masonry.

“What was really heartening to me was there was a lot of local contractors that were represented in those bigger categories, which is good for everybody,” he said.

“It’s good to get local bids and a lot of local people had low bids,” said Superintendent Paul Carlson. “It’s very encouraging that local people will be working on our project.”

One area of concern is that there were no bids for structural steel.

“That’s a little bit concerning. I’m not sure exactly why that happened,” DeVetter said. “Winkleman will dig into it and figure it out.”

The bid tallies are expected to be completed by Aug. 8, when the NLS School Board is expected to take action.

Construction is slated to begin Aug. 22.

Carlson said the middle school parking lot will serve as the staging area for the project, which means that parking lot will be out of use for one entire school year.

“We ask that people have a lot of patience,” Carlson said. “There will be inconveniences but keep in mind the end product.”