In looking toward planned renovations in the Elizabethtown Area School District, the school board will consider renovating the mostly unused lower level of the middle school to house sixth-graders, who are currently at Bear Creek School.
If the plan is approved, sixth-graders would move there in August 2021. Also, third-graders would move from the elementary schools to Bear Creek at the same time, with the elementary schools housing kindergarten through second grades.
The option was presented at the school board meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 26, as part of ongoing discussions about phase three of a four-phase building program focusing on Rheems and Mill Road elementary schools. Making the presentation was John Eck of Fidevia Construction Management and Consulting.
(Phase one was the construction of Bear Creek and renovation of East High Elementary while phase two saw an overhaul of Bainbridge Elementary. Phase four, farther in the future, will be renovations to the high school/middle school complex and district offices, with estimates ranging from $50 million to $80 million.) For phase three, the board has previously considered two options: renovating both Rheems and Mill Road at a cost of $28 million, or expand and renovate Rheems while closing Mill Road, at a cost of $21.6 million.
With debt service anticipated to exceed $80 million for the remaining two phases, the district is exploring alternatives to reduce construction costs. The district estimates it will save about $15 million compared to renovating both schools and close to $8 million compared to renovating just Rheems.
“If you’re going to ask me what I would rather spend dollars on, I’d rather spend dollars on kids and programs than debt service,” Superintendent Michele Balliet said.
The cost of renovating the lower level of the middle school would be $4 million to $4.5 million, Eck said. (This level would have been part of the future secondary
renovation.) Construction would start in June 2020, to be finished for the 2021-22 school year.
The renovations would include the addition of classrooms, restrooms and an elevator for handicapped accessibility. To accommodate the project, the rifle range and GEARS offices would have to be relocated.
The redesigned Rheems project would cost between $13 million and $14 million. The project would include adding a multipurpose gymnasium, controlled entryways and safety enhancements, and overall refurbishment. That construction would start in June 2021, to be finished for the 2022-23
Upon completion of the Rheems project, discussion on the future of Mill Road would continue, although the new option could make Mill Road no longer needed.
District spokesman Troy Portser pointed out afterward that by moving third graders to Bear Creek, the other elementary schools would have room to house the Rheems students during that renovation.
Possible benefits for this option include flexibility for full-day kindergarten without expanding the elementary schools and potential transportation efficiencies.
The board will discuss the new proposal further at the workshop meeting in March.
In other business, the board approved a calendar for the 2019-2020 school year, with a start date of Aug. 26. The last day of school will be June 3.
The board also heard Balliet give an update on the proposed 2019-2020 budget. A proposed 2.9 percent tax increase would provide an additional $1.2 million in revenue.