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Middle School Plans Presented to EASD Board

By DIANE M. BITTING

Special to the Advocate

The Elizabethtown school board learned more details about the planned renovation of the lower level of the Elizabethtown Area Middle School to house the sixth grade, now at Bear Creek School, starting in the 2021-22 school year.

Grace Heiland of the Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates architectural firm presented updated plans to the board at its workshop meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 13, that also included the possibility of upgrading the middle school gymnasiums and expanding the cafeteria, which is shared by the middle school and high school.

The lower-level project, originally with six classrooms plus collaborative learning space, previously had an estimated cost of $4.5 million. But with the addition of two classrooms, the conversion of unused locker rooms into a physical education space and a new sprinkler system, the price tag is now $6 million. (Although the offices of Greater Elizabethtown Area Recreation & Community Services will vacate the middle school’s lower level, the rifle range and wrestling room would remain.) The additional classrooms would allow two of the three sixth-grade teams to remain on the same level, Heiland said. Also, a sprinkler system for the entire lower level would be added during a planned future renovation to the high school/middle school building, so it made sense to add it now, she said.

As Superintendent Michele Balliet put it: “The intention is that once this is renovated, then we wouldn’t go back and retouch anything in future renovations for the middle school-high school complex.”

Renovations to the middle school gymnasiums and the cafeteria are not part of the base $6 million cost.

Proposals for the main and auxiliary gymnasiums include air conditioning, new and refurbished flooring, new padding and basketball goals, fixing damaged walls, replacing block glass with windows and replacing the roof and pavers at the exit. All of these fixes would total more than $500,000.

Board member Craig Hummeracknowledged that these gymnasiums are in “rough shape.” Added board member Michael Martin: “I like to save money, but they’re kind of embarrassing.”

Heiland also presented options for expanding capacity for 300 more students in the cafeteria, which has separate seating areas for high school and middle school. The low-end option calls for turning the former dish room into an additional 1,000 square feet of cafeteria space. The high-end option would be a more extensive renovation with a food court serving both high school and middle school; it would add 2,000 square feet. That cost, $2.5 million, would include upgraded kitchen equipment.

At the next meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 27, the board is scheduled to vote on the $6 million design for the middle school lower level.

In other business, the board voted to approve the appointment of Joshua Schaffer as the new dean of students at the middle school.

It also heard about a request to establish a student activity account for an autistic support class for such activities as shopping, budgeting and cooking, with help from community volunteers. There is also a proposal to start a Mini-Thon club at the middle school to raise money for the Four Diamonds Fund to fight pediatric cancer.

In public comments, Josh Peters expressed concern about large class sizes at Bainbridge Elementary School, particularly with the combined second- and third-grade classes, and said he would like to see more staff there.

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