The possibility of an elementary center came up at the Lehighton Area School Distrist Building Committee Workshop meeting Monday night.

Superintendent Jonathan J. Cleaver began the presentation by explaining that this idea grew out of discussions at some of the local elementary schools PTO meetings.

"This is very preliminary at this point," Cleaver said. "It's for discussion only this evening, but it is definitely something to look at."

Currently, Lehighton Area School 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.

East Penn, Franklin, and Mahoning Elementary Schools were all built in 1954. Shull-David Elementary School followed in 1959. These schools are now facing major renovations and updating in order to meet current infrastructure needs.

The school board voted in December to renovate East Penn and Mahoning elementary schools with options including core upgrades and safety and security enhancements. Both schools were constructed in 1954.

According to early estimates from the architect, depending on the scope of the project the combined cost for the two schools could be between $9 million and $16 million.

However, under this new proposal, students in grades kindergarten through five would attend the elementary center grouped respectively in grades kindergarten through two and 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.

So new is this elementary center concept to the LASD discussions that Architectural Consultant Mark Barnhardt of EI Associates did not have time to produce an artist's rendering of the concept.

However, he did present a design similar to what is being discussed from another school district on which his firm had worked.

"Each grade would have its own pod or 'neighborhood' with the shared core space in the center of the building a separate cafeteria, gymnasium, etc.," Barnhardt said.

Currently, LASD elementary students operate daily in a "café-gym-atorium" a combined cafeteria, gymnasium, and auditorium.

When a school district undertakes a major construction project and seeks reimbursement from the state, a comprehensive process known as PLANning and CONstruction is initiated.

Lehighton Area School Board authorized EI Associates to submit updated PlanCon paperwork to the Pennsylvania Department of Education on Sept. 13, 2012.

This paperwork was submitted "status quo."

They are unsure at this time if there would be any reimbursement from PlanCon should the elementary center concept go through.

Cleaver estimates that if it would go through, full reimbursement from PlanCon would result in 2.87 mills; half reimbursement would result in 4.12 mills; and no reimbursement in 5.38 mills. One mill equals $360,320.

The land for an elementary center would not have to be purchased because it would probably be built on property already owned by LASD at the high school administration building campus.

In addition, Cleaver estimates a savings of approximately $800,000 a year just from salaries and benefits because fewer teachers would be needed.

He quickly pointed out that the school district would not be looking at furloughs. Simply, as teachers retire or leave, they would not be replaced.

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."