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Architect: Closing Mill Road School, Expanding Rheems Will Save at Least $3 Million

The Elizabethtown Area School District could save at least $3 million if it closed Mill Road Elementary School and instead expanded Rheems Elementary School.

In considering upcoming elementary school renovations, the Elizabethtown school board heard a presentation by Crabtree Rohrbaugh & Associates at the workshop meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 9.

John Beddia told the board that an expanded Rheems Elementary School would have a capacity of 675 students, which is slightly larger than East High Elementary. Preliminary plans call for renovating the existing 50,000 square feet and adding 41,000 square feet, including a two-story section and a 6,500-square-foot gymnasium with a stage.

Beddia presented figures to compare renovating both schools and consolidation. Renovating both would cost approximately between $24 million and $26 million while doing just Rheems would cost roughly between $20 million and $22 million.

“On the low end, there’s a three- to five-million-dollar savings by consolidating construction at one site,” Beddia said. He noted that those figures are total project costs.

Crabtree’s Grace Heiland displayed a rendering that showed outdoor learning areas and collaborative learning spaces. A new parent drop-off area would be added to the back of the school, she said.

Beddia also discussed a possible timeline for construction, which would take 16 months. One scenario had the project completed in December 2020 if the building was vacated. Rheems students would be relocated to Mill Road and East High. Superintendent Michele Balliet said that moving students back in the middle of the year would be problematic.

Board members discussed holding a public hearing possibly in January before any final decisions are made.

The board voted to approve a request for changes in the district’s contract with Greater Elizabethtown Area Recreation & Community Services. Proposed changes would include withdrawing the district’s $25,000 contribution to the GEARS scheduler’s salary, charging 3 percent on revenues generated by programs held in district buildings and charging GEARS rent for space leased in the middle school.

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