Lehighton Area School Board will vote Monday night about whether or not it will move ahead with building a new elementary center.

Rather than renovating its four current elementary school buildings, the district is currently looking at replacing them with a new elementary center. Costs for either renovations or new construction are projected to be the same $32.5 million.

In addition, the school district is looking at $10.7 million to renovate the middle school and $9.3 million to renovate the high school. This brings the total projected building costs throughout the school district to $52.5 million.

If the board votes to go ahead with the project, the timeline calls for design approval in May and construction to begin in March of next year. The new center would be ready to occupy by August 2016, according to the timeline on the district website.

The proposed construction site of the elementary center would be at the southwest corner of property the district owns at the high school/administration building campus, behind the varsity softball field.

It would include eight classrooms each for grades K through five. Additional classrooms would include six support/divided, six special education, two art and one music.

The shared core areas would include a media center, gymnasium, physical education office, stage/platform, student dining area, kitchen, administration-guidance office, health suite, faculty dining area, faculty workroom and two locker/team rooms.

The proposed elementary center would be 140,000 square feet, with a total capacity of 1,350.

Repairing schools

Currently, the district maintains four separate elementary schools for students in grades kindergarten through four. Students in grades five through eight attend the middle school and students in grades nine through 12 attend the high school.

Under the elementary center proposal, students in grades kindergarten through five would attend the elementary center, grouped respectively in primary grades kindergarten through two and elementary grades three through five. Students in grades six through eight would attend the middle school. The high school would continue to serve students in grades nine through 12.

The current elementary schools, East Penn, Franklin, Mahoning and Shull-David were all built in the 1950s.

According to a presentation in December, improvements needed at all four schools include upgrade of mechanical, electrical, lighting, and plumbing systems, building code upgrades, accessibility upgrades, security system upgrades, roof replacement, increased parking, repair paving and sidewalks, safety in play areas and increased security fencing.

Improvements needed at Franklin Elementary School include the above upgrades plus repair of the running track.

Superintendent Jonathan Cleaver presented a cost comparison of maintaining four elementary schools versus the current high school, which is approximately the same square footage as the proposed elementary center. According to his estimates, the district would save $1 million annually.

The biggest savings would be staff realignment at $825,000.

Other savings would include: books/media supplies, $20,000; building Internet charge, $25,000; building/maintenance supplies, $50,000; energy savings,$83,000; fire inspection, $2,000; food service supplies, $10,000; maintenance, $10,000; mowing service, $30,000; water and water testing, $10,000, and security, $6,000.

Costs

These savings may be offset somewhat by a possible increase of $20,000 for an additional bus route, if needed, and $75,000 for electric.

If the school board decides to renovate the current buildings at $40 million, an estimated $5 million for each of the four elementary schools and $10 million each for the middle and high schools,

Cleaver estimates that with using $4 million from the fund balance, full reimbursement from the state would result in 3.46 mills over four years.

Finally, if the school board decides to keep the buildings and renovate the current buildings at the projected $52.5 million, Cleaver estimates that with using $4 million from the fund balance, full reimbursement from PlanCon would result in 5.09 mills over four years. Half reimbursement would result in 6.34 mills.

These figures are assuming that one mill equals $360,320.

These tax increases would go up in incremental steps.

"These mill increases would be phased in over four years," Cleaver said.

The board will meet at 7 p.m. Monday at the administration building.

To view the presentation regarding the proposed elementary center go to www.Lehighton.org.