The building project planned for the Panther Valley School District could cost considerably less than anticipated.

Bids for the project, which will convert the swimming pool area of the high school into classroom space, were opened Thursday.

The district anticipated that construction costs would total about $4.5 million. However, bids that were opened Thursday indicate the construction work could conceivably be done for $3,564,800, without options.

The options added to the bidding packages include removing existing hallway lockers and replacing them with new solid plastic wardrobe lockers at specified locations, re-roofing the entire area as well as the gymnasium, and replacing a propane generator with a diesel generator.

District Business Manager Kenneth Marx Jr. said he expects the bids will be awarded when the board meets at 7 p.m. on April 24.

School officials are hoping the project will be completed for the start of the 2015-2016 school year.

The low bidder for each phase of the projects was:

Construction Bracy Contracting Inc., Allentown, $2,149,000.

Plumbing Construction JBM Mechanical, Nazareth, $281,000.

Mechanical Construction Frey Lutz Corp., Lancaster, $625,800.

Electrical Construction Albarell Electric Inc., Bethlehem, $509,000.

For the general construction, if all the options are taken including a new roof over both the pool area and gymnasium, the costs would rise to $3,047,502.

The only other bidder for construction besides the Bracy firm was Lobar Inc., which submitted a base bid of $2,208,000 and an overall accumulative bid of $3,066,800.

Four companies bid on the plumbing contract, with the bids ranging from JBM's $281,000 quote to a figure by Yannuzzi Inc. of Hazleton at $370,000.

Bidding was spirited for the mechanical construction portion of the contract with nine firms giving prices. The high bid was by Bognet Inc. of Hazleton for $744,000. All the other bids were less than $690,000.

Four firms provided bids to do the electrical work, with the highest being $770,860 by Spotts Brothers Inc. of Schuylkill Haven.

Present for the bid opening besides Marx was board vice-president John Williams, and representatives of the district's engineering firm, The Architectural Studio of Emmaus.

The school board opted to convert the pool area into classroom space because of classroom needs. It was a choice between construction of a new building or making the conversion.

When the project is completed, kindergarten through third grade will remain at the present elementary school in Nesquehoning, grades 4-6 will relocate to the present middle school, grades 7-8 will occupy the new classrooms, and the high school classes will stay where they are.

The project is expected to eliminate 12 modular classrooms that are presently being used at the elementary school.

The district had 1,781 pupils in the 2012-2013 school year, and had inadequate classroom space, it was noted. By the 2020-2021 school year, it is projected the district will have 1,960 pupils, necessitating seven additional classrooms.

The present building capacity is for 1,697 students.

A new building housing 350 students would have cost $12 million, and an addition to the middle school would have cost up to $16.2 million, according to initial estimates.

The new addition where the pool now exists will have two floors.