Board moves ahead with high school project design

By Shawn Hardy news@echo-pilot.com

The Greencastle-Antrim School Board took the next step toward a high school building project Thursday night, but some board members stressed this must just be one part of a larger plan to meet district building and educational needs.

The board voted 9-0 to authorize the architectural firm Crabtree, Rohrbaugh and Associates to proceed with designing the proposed high school renovations and additions, including space for a district administrative office. Replacing the middle school roof, which has been included in cost estimates, will begin this summer.

Cost estimates for the high school project range from $17.5 million without the district administrative office to $19.9 million with it.

Contracts need to be awarded by July 1, 2021, in order for the district to receive $5.7 to $6 million in reimbursement from the state.

A long-range building project with an estimated cost of $50 million has been discussed since last fall and initially the primary and elementary schools appeared first in line. However, state reimbursement for work at those buildings is not guaranteed like it is at the high school.

The high school project is being selected because of the state money and not the most need. Work at the other schools must follow on the heels of the high school project, said board member Dr. Carter Davidson.

The district needs to see "perpetual construction for the next 15 years," said board member Scott Hart.

"We've got to start somewhere," said board member Shannon Blanchard. She acknowledged the district can barely support the project financially, citing the state funding formula that reimburses G-A less than most other districts per pupil.

"The community needs to know the dire situation we're in ... because Harrisburg keeps shorting us. We're trying to make scraps work and scraps don't work," Hart said.

District property owners will be facing maximum tax increases because of the lack of state funding, Caroline Royer, chief financial officer, said.

"I'm ready to rip the BAND-AID off," said Board Vice President Michael Still. "This is what we need to do, guys."

"That was a tough one, but I believe you did the right thing," Dr. Kendra Trail, superintendent, said after the vote.

Trail also highlighted for the board what will happen if a district administrative office is included at the high school project.

The district gave up its administrative offices for instructional space years ago and administrators are scattered in different buildings, which makes communication and collaboration a challenge.

 Moving Trail and Dr. Robert Crider, chief educational officer, out of the primary school office will free up room for counselors, as well as a conference room.

 Moving business and human resources staff out of the farmhouse at Tayamentasachta will "basically reclaim the entire house" for environmental education.

 Moving three business office staffers from a room off the high school library will allow the to be repurposed as a technology learning hub.

 Food services will be able to move out of a storage area in the elementary school.

Dr. Ed Rife, principal, outlined the high school project at an earlier meeting. He said it includes:

Addition of an autistic support classroom

Life skills moves to a larger classroom to better meet students' needs

Wellness/driver's education would have a dedicated classroom

Improved science classrooms and labs

Additional seating in the cafeteria to assist with increasing class sizes

Flexibility of additional classrooms in the future, as needed, without major renovation

Wrestling room would return to high school (currently in primary school)

Wrestling room creates options for wellness classes and after-school gym use

Increases size of weight room and cardio room to better meet needs of classes and sports teams

Classrooms arranged by department, making it easier to share materials and equipment and collaborate

Creates traffic flow options in the building

Alternative education addition