Lehighton Area School District will receive a $2 million grant from the Department of Community and Economic Development for construction of a new elementary center.

The new, 140,000-square-foot K-2 primary and 3-5 elementary center, will replace four aging facilities.

The grant through the state's Alternative and Clean Energy Program would provide funding for a geothermal HVAC system, energy-efficient lighting, natural daylighting and thermal envelope, and is anticipated to reduce energy consumption by 4,685,179 kBTU annually.

In addition, new low-flow water fixtures will save the district 30 percent of the annual water usage at the building.

Superintendent Jonathan Cleaver thanked both state Sen. John Yudichak, as well as state Rep. Doyle Heffley, "for their continued support of the district, and their commitment to the value of children in our community.

"This additional funding is an opportunity to expand educational resources for our students," Cleaver said. "Any funding assistance that will help prepare our students become 21st century learners is greatly appreciated. With the new building design and concept we are planning to make this a sanctuary for student success and teacher collaboration."

Last month amid public opposition the school board, on a 5-4 vote, agreed to authorize the submission of a request to the Pennsylvania Department of Education to combine the previously submitted paperwork for four elementary project submittals into one elementary project by the administration and the architect, EI Associates, for the project known as the new primary/elementary center.

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

Construction of a new elementary center would place students in grades K-5 in one building, and close each of the district's four existing elementary schools.

The district has been faced with a decision to either renovate its four elementary school buildings, all built in the 1950s, or replace them with a new elementary center.

District officials say costs for either scenario new construction or renovations are projected to be about the same, about $32.5 million.

However, a major issue is whether state funding will be available.

In addition, the district is looking at $10.7 million to renovate the middle school, along with $9.3 million to renovate the high school.

That brings the total projected building costs throughout the school district to $52.5 million.

Earlier last month, the board voted 5-4 to realign the district classes by moving the fifth-grade students back to the elementary level.

As a result, students in kindergarten through fifth grade will attend the elementary schools or proposed elementary center. Students in grades six through eight will attend the middle school; and the high school will still serve students in grades nine through 12.