Following a presentation by architectural consultants Mark Barnhardt and Leah Shiley of EI Associates, the Lehighton school board has authorized the submission of updated PlanCon paperwork to the Pennsylvania Department of Education.
While no new construction is currently planned in the district, the submission of this PlanCon paperwork will keep the option open so that the school district would receive reimbursement from the Commonwealth if construction is initiated.
When a school district undertakes a major construction project and seeks reimbursement from the state, a comprehensive process known as PlanCon is initiated.
PlanCon is an acronym for PLANning and CONstruction Workbook. It is a set of forms and procedures used to apply for reimbursement from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The PlanCon forms are designed to document a local school district's planning process; provide justification for a project to the public; ascertain compliance with state laws and regulations; and establish the level of state participation in the cost of the project.
PlanCon paperwork had previously been initiated when the district's Building Task Force Committee was formed in December 2010. This committee was charged with evaluating the conditions of the buildings throughout the district, reviewing all options, and giving the school board direction on behalf of the community. It was made up of approximately 30 interested community members, teachers, administrators, and school board members.
After meeting over a 10-month period, the committee proposed a building plan that would have added on to the existing high school building. This would have allowed the high school and middle school students to share some core space – while retaining their respective separate educational space.
However, that building plan failed to receive the required approval of the majority of school board members last November.
A moratorium goes in effect October 1 that will freeze reimbursement from the commonwealth. Barnhardt and Shiley pointed out during their presentation that reimbursement is determined by enrollment.
East Penn, Franklin , and Mahoning Elementary Schools were built in 1954. With a current enrollment of 138 students, East Penn has a maximum eligible reimbursement of $1,799,160. Franklin has 272 students and is eligible for $3,079,440. Mahoning is eligible for $2,092,440 with 187 students.
Shull-David Elementary School was built in 1959 and currently has 299 students. It is eligible for $2,808,720 in maximum reimbursement.
Built in 1962-64, the current middle school building originally served as the high school for the district. Student enrollment is 725 with a maximum eligible reimbursement of $7,471,440.
Lehighton Area High School was built in 1992 and is eligible for $8,198,880 with a current enrollment of 783 students.
According to EI Associates, reimbursement from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania would be 60 percent of these figures.
"Lehighton Area School District is a very unique district. Out of the 500 districts throughout Pennsylvania, there is no other like ours," said Rocky Ahner, school board president.
"We have four elementary buildings that have their own personalities, yet can work together as one. Our middle school teaches teamwork and our high school builds character.
He added, "This is the type of district we should continue to be."
The next special meeting of the school board is scheduled for Thursday, Sept. 20 at 7 p.m. at the newly-renovated Lehighton Area Middle School Gymnasium. At this meeting, the board will address safety issues at Lehighton Football Stadium and discuss permanent, long-term solutions.
The next regular meeting of board is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 24 at 7 p.m. at LASD Administration Building, Conference Room A.
The public is encouraged to attend these school board meetings.