EDUCATION

School renovation plans introduced

PAT FRIDGEN
An architect’s rendition of school renovations was presented to the school board Dec. 3. The blue indicates existing buildings and the red will be new construction. When the field house is finished in the third phase of the project, the present gymnasium will be turned into classrooms.

A $54 million building project was presented to the Greencastle-Antrim School Board Dec. 3.

Mark Barnhart from EI Associates provided visual examples of the renovation work planned for the school district in three phases, beginning in 2010. He was preceded in the worksession by Superintendent Greg Hoover, who reported on information gathered by the Facilities Committee as it determined educational space needs through 2020.

"I'll talk about concepts because that's all it is at this point," Hoover said. The committee had established two goals in its research, to find immediate relief from classroom crowding, and expansion to serve the student body for the next decade.

With the Pennsylvania Department of Education's 20-year reimbursement cycle, the time was right to renovate buildings on the school campus. The high school was built in 1959, the middle school in 1967, the elementary school in 1979 and the primary school in 1994. Allowing for improvements over the years, the high school was due fixing up and the middle school could be grandfathered in because of its place in line in a few years.

Barnhart agreed with the assessment of need and timing for additions. His architectural firm had been seeing construction bids come in 20 percent lower than before the recession. "There's a lot of competition driving the prices."

PDE and EI calculated future student population growth. Hoover averaged the numbers and compared them to the count of students today. Enrollment in 2009 and 2020 were indicated as follows: high school 977 and 1,240; middle 699 and 930; elementary 691 and 930; and primary 631 and 930. That meant a jump from 3,000 students to 4,020, averaging 310 students per grade.

The district has had 41 percent growth since 1980 and 15 percent since 1990. Based on projections, Hoover said the district will need to add at least 39 classrooms.

"We're running out of room and we're doing it in a hurry."

The concept

The building project would take place in three phases. The first would connect the middle and high schools. The space between them would be enclosed to contain classrooms, a shared library and kitchen, arts area, guidance and nursing offices, administrative offices and a wrestling room. The primary school would be extended and renovations made to the stadium. A capital campaign would kick off to help with stadium enhancements. The Phase I cost was estimated at $33 million.

Phase 2 would incur renovations to the secondary schools and the elementary school, with classrooms put in where administration offices are now. This work could run $8.7 million.

Phase 3 is construction of a new field house, connected to the high school by an elevated walkway. The pricetag was set at $12.3 million.

Hoover said a longer-range plan was for pre-kindergarten, predicted to eventually be mandated by the state, housed in a new building; the primary school for grades 1 and 2, elementary 3 and 4, a new school for grades 5,6,7 on the south campus across Leitersburg Street, middle 8 and 9, and high school grades 10, 11, 12. A transportation center someday could cost $3 million.

The impact of the three-phase expansion on staffing was to hire three more custodians, five secretaries, eight aides, eight bus drivers, one mechanic, two cafeteria workers, and 34 teachers.

"It's a dilemma," Hoover acknowledged. "It will cost us money. We have to do something."

The reimbursement from PDE because of the 20-year cycle could be $23.2 million, Barnhart noted in his report. The school board will address the tax impact to property owners in January.

The timeline

Barnhart explained that it would take a year of planning, including the letting of bids, so construction would begin in 2011. Phase 1 would take 18 months. Phase 2 would start in 2013 and wrap up before year end. Phase 4 would start later that same year and be completed by 2015.

EI has been involved with G-ASD school construction for 20 years.