By DIANE M. BITTING
Special to the Advocate
The Elizabethtown school board gave the go-ahead to proceed with plans to convert the lower level of the Elizabethtown Area Middle School into a space for sixth-graders followed by a renovation of Rheems Elementary School.
With all members present, the board voted unanimously in favor of the project at the board’s meeting on Tuesday, March 26.
A previous cost estimate puts the middle school sixthgrade project at $4 million to $4.5 million while the Rheems project,which would include a 12,000-square-foot addition to allow for the cafeteria and gym to be separate, wouldcost $13 million to $14 million.
This is nearly $8 million less than a previous plan for a larger expansion to Rheems in anticipation of the possible closure of Mill Road. That closure is still possible, but a final decision has yet to be made.
The plans would also reconfigure building grade levels, with sixth-graders moving from Bear Creek School to the middle school and thirdgraders moving to Bear Creek, leaving kindergarten through second grades at the elementary schools.
Construction in the middle school would start in June 2020, to be finished for the 2021-22 school year. The Rheems project would start the following summer, to be finished for the 2022-23 school year.
The next step is the design process involving the district’s architect, construction manager and energy savings company. Once the design plans are finalized, the project will be put out for bid, which will produce final cost numbers.
Superintendent Michele Balliet noted that, for Rheems, that design process will determine whether the gym or cafeteria would be relocated.
The board also gave approval for the district to obtain a facility dog through United Disability Services to be at the high school, as part of the support services department. The purpose is to ease students’ stress and anxiety.
The board also voted in favor of a one-year extension agreement with Greater Elizabethtown Area Recreation & Community Services, effective Jan. 1. The agreement includes a 3 percent payment to the district from revenues of the GEARS child care program held in district buildings. (Board member Michelle Pelna abstained from the vote because she teaches yoga for GEARS.) The board, however, modified the agreement to take out a section referring to the district providing space for GEARS offices on the lower level of the middle school (as it currently does) and charging just over $2,200 in annual rent. That space is now slated to be renovated for sixth-graders, making it necessary for GEARS to relocate.
In addition, the board approved the contract with the district’s new business manager, Jeffrey Ammerman, at a salary of $135,000.
In other business, the board approved the acceptance of a $3,000 grant from the Emerald Foundation for the district’s new eSport Club for online gaming along with the establishment of a student activity account for that club.