By DIANE M. BITTING
Special to the Advocate
The Elizabethtown school board heard an update on design plans for the upcoming renovation to the lower level of the Elizabethtown Area Middle School. That renovation, to start in June of 2020, will allow the district’s sixthgrade classes, now at Bear Creek School, to move to the middle school at the start of the 2021-22 school year.
Grace Heiland of the Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates architectural firm gave the presentation at the board’s workshop meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 12.
In August, the board approved a $6 million lowerlevel renovation that would create eight classrooms, including two science rooms, which would accommodate two of the three sixth-grade teams, as well as physical education space. Since that time, the board has also discussed alternate bids, in addition to the $6 million base cost, that would upgrade the cafeteria (which is shared by the high school and middle school) to accommodate 300 additional students and also renovate the middle school’s two gymnasiums.
For the cafeteria, the alternate bids originally included a low-end proposal to remove a dish room to create an additional 1,000 square feet of space for seating, at first estimated at $250,000. But on Tuesday, Nov. 12, Heiland gave an updated cost of $330,000, because of the need to remove a load-bearing wall; that cost would also include acoustical panels and painting the walls. No work would be done to the kitchen and serving areas.
Heiland recommended that this proposal be included as part of the base bid, bringing that cost to $6.36 million. Doing so would meet the immediate needs of seating more students and could easily be done this coming summer as part of the base project, she said.
The board had previously discussed different cafeteria scenarios, with a high-end estimate of $2.5 million for an extensive renovation that would include a food court. Crabtree’s design team is studying those potential upgrades to the cafeteria and food service areas.
Heiland said at the Nov. 12 meeting that any project involving the serving areas would need more than one summer to accomplish and would impact food service. Thus, she recommended that if the board approves additional upgrades, that those be part of a phase two that could be done in the summer of 2021.
Board member Craig Hummer asked if there would not be adequate capacity with the cafeteria’s current layout. “It’s close,” answered Heiland. The goal is to seat 630 students, she said, and the number now is 606.
Hummer said he struggles with the idea of spending $330,000 to essentially put in three tables, especially since it’s unknown what the future renovation of the high school/middle school complex would look like. Although that is five or six years down the road, Hummer noted that capacity issue is an immediate concern.
“We would see under any scenario that you would choose to do in the future, you would want to remove the dish room,” Heiland said.
“Unless we decide not to put the cafeteria where the cafeteria is,” Hummer added.
Later in the conversation, John Eck of Fidevia, the district’s construction manager, said that with the addition of 300 students, “while there’s probably enough seating to squeeze them in, squeezing them in creates a pretty good flow problem.”
Board member Michael Martin said he favors keeping the cafeteria where it is, saying it makes sense financially to make changes now.
To say there is adequate seating with only six additional seats is not reasonable for a middle school cafeteria, board member Erin Grosh said. “If sixth-grade me walked into a cafeteria and saw that there were two seats available at the eighth-grade table with the boys, I would have just avoided lunch altogether,” she said.
Heiland also gave a summary of the alternate bids for the gymnasiums, ranging from $620,000 to $720,000 for such renovations as upgraded flooring and air conditioning.
She said construction documents will be presented in January, with bidding taking place in February. Bids will be presented to the board in March for approval, with construction slated to start in June 2020 and continue through May 2021.
In other business, the board reviewed a list of bids for new musical instrument purchases, totaling $35,553, to be approved at the Nov. 26 meeting.
Among the policies presented for a first reading was an amended food service policy. Previously, the state had prohibited offering alternative meals for students who had outstanding account balances. Now, said board member Michelle Pelna, schools can offer alternative meals “as long as we don’t make it obvious.”
Also, Richard Schwarzman, assistant to the superintendent, gave a presentation on the district’s performance on the state’s Future Ready PA Index, which was released Oct. 31. In most areas, the district met or exceeded the standards.