In front of another packed house on Monday evening, Lehighton Area School Board voted to move one step further on three important building projects.

With school board Director Dave Krause abstaining, the school board voted 8-0 to renovate East Penn and Mahoning Elementary Schools with options including core upgrade and safety and security enhancements. In addition, there are two alternatives two additional classrooms and alternative parking facilities at each school.

According to Superintendent Jonathan J. Cleaver, core upgrades to the two schools would include the media center, the multipurpose auditorium/cafeteria/gymnasium, and the kitchen areas.

"It's a good feeling that we're moving forward with East Penn and Mahoning," school board President Rocky Ahner said. "Finally, the 'little people' are taken care of."

School board Vice President Hal Resh agreed.

"We've taken these buildings apart. Now, it's time that we put them back together," he said.

Renovations for both East Penn and Mahoning elementary schools together will range from $9 million to $16 million, depending on specific options yet to be determined by the school board. The $16 million figure would include such options as additional classrooms and possible core space; additional safety and security enhancements; and alternative parking facilities at each school.

The board also voted to hire Barry Isset & Associates Inc. at an estimated cost of $358,000 to complete design/development phases for complete preparation of bid documents for the development of a new multipurpose stadium. In addition, a project manager would be hired to oversee the project.

In September 2012, the engineering and consulting firm presented three stadium options to the school board.

The one being studied involves developing a new site located at the current track between Lehighton Area High School and the administration building.

The project would include new home and visitor grandstands for a seating capacity of 2,500; a new press box; a new field house structure; a new storage/restroom structure; new fencing to provide a secured site; new stadium lighting; a multipurpose turf field; and construct it as an ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act)-accessible site. Seating capacity at the current football stadium is approximately 1,475.

This new multipurpose stadium would replace the current football stadium located at Beaver Run Road and Mahoning Street in Lehighton.

The current Lehighton Football Stadium, then known as "the new athletic field," was constructed in 1939-1940.

The anticipated budget of this option, which includes demolition; grandstands; NPDES permitting; site work; artificial turf; and new structures, is projected to be between $4.9 million and $5.6 million.

"How are we going to pay for it?" asked Director William Hill. "We'll still have to fix the current stadium."

"Tonight is not a motion to put a shovel in the ground," responded Director Andrew Yenser. "It's our next step to get the final numbers."

According to Resh, Lehighton Area School District has spent $327,465 on drawings, plans, and feasibility studies since 2012. "And we haven't even put a shovel in the ground yet."

Voting in favor of the stadium measure were Jack Finnegan (by phone), Krause, Larry Stern, Wayne Wentz and Yenser. Ahner, Hill, Resh and Thomas Zimmerman voted against it.

"Everyone wants to do the right thing about the multipurpose stadium, but for the past two years, the board has committed $10 million from the $13 million fund balance to the increasing pension and health benefit obligations," said Ahner.

"We have to be careful not to use too much so we don't let the district go unprotected."

In other business, the school board voted to meet for a workshop meeting on the second Monday of each month to address building projects.

"This will allow the board to take action and vote right away, rather than waiting until the next regular school board meeting," said Hill.

Solicitor William Schwab reminded the school board that the workshop meetings need to be advertised.

For all PowerPoint presentations and feasibility studies concerning LASD facilities, visit the LASD website at www.Lehighton.org. Click on "Files and Documents" under "Quick Links." Click on "District." The various presentations can be found under "Building Feasibility Study."

The reorganizational meeting of the school board is set for 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 2 at the administration building, Conference Room A.