Slatington Elementary is set to undergo a facelift.

Northern Lehigh School District administrators, school board directors, and several students gathered for a groundbreaking ceremony Monday at the school to launch the start of a $21.4 million renovation project.

Superintendent Michael Michaels began the program with opening remarks, at which time he lauded the board of education for its diligence and support of the project.

"It's good for our kids, good for our community," Michaels said. "They did it for the betterment of these students and these teachers."

Michaels said the project will ensure the safety and security of the building; improve the education of students; reunite the district's administrative team; and upgrade the infrastructure.

School board President Edward Hartman said that while the building served the community well for the past 38 years, the time for change has arrived.

"It's a fun and exciting day," Hartman said. "We look for the school to serve the students and the community for another 45 years."

Principal Linda Marcincin then introduced students Franki Dibilio, grade 3; Leanne Herbold, grade 4; and Ashley Anderson, grade 5; who won an essay contest in which they wrote of their fondest memories of the school. The students then grabbed shovels and took part in the groundbreaking.

Director Raymond Follweiler thanked the board, administrators, office staff and teachers who helped make the project possible.

"We will have a new school that we can all be proud of," Follweiler said. "Everybody's going to be very, very proud."

The new, 110,000-square-foot building will contain 24 classrooms, three computer labs, cafeteria space to seat 225 people, and an expanded gymnasium to seat 675 people. Construction is expected to last about 20 months.

The school will maintain its grade 3-6 configuration, and also add six classrooms to address space concerns. Also, the plan will reconfigure open concept classrooms into individual classrooms, and construct an addition to house the third grade. In addition, the gymnasium will remain in its current location; a movable partition will be added for program flexibility; the existing locker area will be modified to increase gym seating capacity; and secure community access will be provided.

The plan will also allow for the elementary offices to be relocated to the first floor entrance; a new two-story complex to be built at the front of the building to house the district's administration offices; former modular offices to be removed; and direct public access to be provided to district administration offices without requiring access to the school.

The district believes the plan will maintain the desired grade configuration; the location of the elementary offices to the front entrance will be improved; the removal of district administration offices from the school will improve security for both by avoiding the mixing of the public and students; and will combine the district administration offices into one facility to improve operating efficiencies.

Based upon enrollment projections that predict steady enrollment to slightly declining enrollment over the next 10 years, the project isn't required to increase overall district capacity. The enrollment projections were evaluated through PDE data, as well as Pennsylvania Economy League data. Also, the consolidation of the district administration offices from temporary modular construction could allow PDE reimbursement in the amount of 25 to 33 percent on a yearly basis over the course of the next 15 years.

Constructed in 1971, the school is the only one of four buildings in the district never to have undergone any renovation work.

Last month, the board, on a 7-0 vote during a special meeting, awarded contracts for the project, pending review and approval of bonds and insurances by the district solicitor.

Also at that time, the board entered into an agreement with H.T. Lyons Company, of Allentown, to perform the HVAC testing, adjusting and balancing services during the additions and renovations to the school. It will perform work on a time and expense basis for a not-to-exceed cost of $36,700, with a contingency amount of $13,500 in the event any duct cleanliness testing or any additional TAB/Commissioning work is requested during the construction phase.

The board also at that time entered into an agreement with Advantage Engineers, of Lansdale, Montgomery County, to perform the construction testing services during the additions and renovations to the school. They will perform work on a time and expense basis for a not-to-exceed cost of $52,235, with a contingency amount of $2,364 in the event any further testing may be needed during the construction phase.

However, business manager Jeremy Melber said the district must come up with an additional $400,000 to afford the project.

Melber noted that while the district needs to borrow $10.4 million next year, it can only borrow $10 million through a bank-qualified loan.

In May, the board approved a bond resolution to authorize the issuance of general obligations debt series of 2010 for $11 million to help afford the project. Also at that time, the board approved the submission of PlanCon F to the Pennsylvania Department of Education for the additions and alterations to Slatington Elementary.

In January, the board agreed to adopt the Act 34 resolution, which calls for a total project cost of $20,432,466. The board approved the resolution after it heard a presentation from financial consultant Les Baer, who said the resolution was part of a parameters resolution the district has had in place since 2004. Baer said that as of Sept. 1, 2015, the board will have the opportunity to refund the issue.

The bond will be taken out of the 2010-11 budget, whereby the district will use .95 mills of its tax base to this year's budget, .7 mills to next year's, and a one-third mill the following year. It is estimated the state will reimburse the district $5,095,000 for the project.