EDUCATION

Greencastle-Antrim school expansion could run $80 million

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot

EI Associates used several methods to project enrollment for the Greencastle-Antrim School District. In every case the results were the same. The four campus buildings are at capacity and the student population is growing.

EI senior vice president Mark Barnhardt updated the school board on the district feasibility study on Dec. 5.

"We wanted to bring the growth potential to the attention of the board," he told Brian Hissong, Melinda Cordell, Ken Haines, Lura Hanks, Eric Holtzman, Linda Farley, Tracy Baer and Mike Still.

Barnhardt said the next decade would realize between 800 and 1,100 new students, learning in buildings with aging infrastructure. While five years ago the board had considered upgrading the middle school and high schools, but paused due to the economy, now the district also needed more space. Based on the Pennsylvania Department of Education guideline of 150 square feet per student, G-ASD needed to add 165,000 square feet to its schools over 10 years, he said.

Barnhardt presented a plan in two phases - addressing immediate needs, then in five years tackling future growth. Each phase would cost $40 million. Pieces of the $80 million plan included rearranging which grades were housed in each building, renovations and constructing a new school. He expected to bring the options to the Jan. 9 meeting, and present more information at every meeting until the board could authorize a project on March 6.

G-ASD was in line for PlanCon reimbursement of $21.2 million from the state for construction, said Barnhardt. The district met the criteria since the plans were submitted before a moratorium went into effect. He didn't know if or when the district would actually see the money.

"The promise is there."

Once a plan was approved, the timeline was a year for design, and then 18 months to two years for construction.

Organizing

The board reorganized, with newly-elected members Lura Hanks and Linda Farley welcomed. Incumbent Hissong was re-elected president and Holtzman was re-elected vice president.

In other business, Jessica McKinstry was hired as high school music teacher for the balance of the school year, covering the vacancy left by the death of educator Samuel Forney.

Business manager Jolinda Wilson shared budget information. The index had just been released by the state, and for 2014-15 it was 2.6 percent. Based on the G-ASD current taxing rate of 101.15 mills, the board could levy an additional 2.6 mills, which would increase revenue by almost $500,000. She would apply for all exceptions allowed.

The board had to vote in the winter and spring on the preliminary and final budget, Wilson said, but the numbers were always subject to change until the June 5 final vote.