$54 million in school renovation plans to be on the table

PAT FRIDGEN

The Greencastle-Antrim High School is due for renovations in 2012 under the 20-year plan authorized by the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The middle school is due in 2015. The school board therefore is set to review plans within months, with a possible groundbreaking in the fall of 2010. The start to finish of any major project, from paperwork to the final coat of paint, is expected to take three years.

The school board Facilities Committee has been working with Mark Barnhart of EI Associates to design the high school and look at other needs in the district. At the 20 year mark, the district can expect the best reimbursement of construction costs from the state.

Superintendent Dr. C. Gregory Hoover said the committee has decided to go for renovations instead of building a new high school. An estimated cost of the new school was $50 million, while renovating the high, middle, elementary and primary schools might be done for $54 million.

The committee has discussed three phases for the project. Phase 1 would entail enclosing the middle and high school, creating a shared library, classrooms and cafeteria. The athletic field would be improved to accomodate girls soccer, which is moving to the fall. The stadium, restroom, concession stand and storage areas would be enhanced. Turf for the football field was on the list, but Hoover hoped the public could step forward to help pay for that.

A design feature reverses the main entrance to the two secondary schools, so students would enter from what is now the back parking lot.

In Phase 2, the secondary schools would be renovated, with less disruption to the students as they would be moved into the space created from the first phase. In Phase 3 the primary school would receive an addition and the elementary school upgraded. The administrative offices would relocate to the third floor of Phase 1, opening up classroom space for elementary students.

It is expected to take five or six years for the entire buildout. Hoover ventured that because the middle and high schools were due for renovations so close together, the state might allow a waiver to do them at the same time, saving in construction costs. He anticipated lower bids due to the economy.

"This is a great time to bid but we still want to phase everything in to keep the debt service low."

The Facilities Committee plans to invite the entire board to visit other school districts which have recently undergone improvements. It will also prioritize specific needs for upgrading. The public will have a chance to offer opinions before any contract is signed.