By DIANE M. BITTING
Special to the Advocate
Just prior to their public meeting, Elizabethtown school board members toured the lower level of the middle school, which is slated for renovation starting next summer in order to house sixth grade beginning in the 2021-22 school year.
Members were accompanied on the private tour by representatives of the district’s architect and construction management firm. The tour included the middle school gymnasiums, which also could be renovated in addition to the estimated $6 million lower-level project.
The alternate gymnasium bids could be as high as $590,000, including $200,000 in various upgrades such as flooring, new padding and goals, and $270,000 for air conditioning. While the lower-level project has been approved, the board still has time to decide on those proposals as well as for expanding the cafeteria.
One factor, as was discussed during the public board meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 10, is whether to tackle the middle school gymnasiums now or wait until the planned renovation of the high school and middle school complex, which is several years away.
One alternate bid is replacing the roof and pavers outside the main middle school gym, estimated at $50,000. As it exists now, water gets into the base of an existing elevator there, which is needed to access that part of the lower level. Board president Terry Seiders asked whether that could be part of the base project.
Board member M. Caroline Lalvani encouraged the board to consider air conditioning the gymnasiums, since they are used heavily.
What will be done in the future renovations is a “foundational question,” said board member Craig Hummer. “Everything we’re trying to do now as part of this renovation is making sure we don’t come back and touch it again when we do the larger high school/middle school complex.”
Two citizens commented on the renovations during the public comment period at the end of the meeting. Earlier in the discussion, it was mentioned that the new sixth-grade classrooms would each measure 800 square feet. That is adequate for classes of about 26 students, said Kristy Moore, a Democratic candidate for school board whose daughter attends Mill Road Elementary. But it appears the science rooms were the same size.
“And science labs are supposed to be a little bit larger for safety reasons,” said Moore, a teacher in the Hempfield School District, at Centerville Middle School. She noted that the National Science Teaching Association recommends 45 square feet per student, whereas Pennsylvania code dictates between 25 and 30. She urged the board to ensure the science labs are large enough. Moore also responded to the board’s discussion of a five-year financial plan, and asked that it include full-day kindergarten, saying that studies show it’s worth the investment.
Paul Szuch suggested that the board consider a process of quality of control beyond the district’s architect, calling the previous lack of a sprinkler system a “glaring error.” (It was slated for the future renovation.) Szuch had addressed the board at a previous meeting regarding the cost increase in the middle school project, from $4.5 million to $6 million. After the meeting, district spokesman Troy Portser said that construction manager Fidevia serves as the district’s advocate.
In other business, Portser presented two new proposed contracts in the district’s partnership with Market Street Sports: with Wheatland Federal Credit Union for the stadium scoreboard sign, and CommunityAid Thrift Stores for the stadium ticket booth. These would bring to seven the total of businesses purchasing naming rights, giving the district additional income.
In the realm of safety and security, human resources director Richard Toth discussed a proposed contract for a communications software platform called Awareity that would help the district’s threat assessment team analyze information on possible risks.
Adam Bergens, director of building and grounds, discussed expanding a current contract with ABM Industries, which provides custodial services in the elementary buildings. Given the difficulty of attracting and retaining custodial help, it’s proposed that ABM fill four current vacancies, and possibly other future vacancies.
Bergens also gave an update on the new solar field, located near Bear Creek School. The solar field was approved two years ago as part of the district’s energy savings project. The field, which just began generating electricity, will save the district money by reducing its utility capacity charge. It will also provide some power to Bear Creek.