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A $20 million pricetag

Published October 13. 2009 05:00PM

A project to renovate Slatington Elementary will cost the Northern Lehigh School District nearly $20 million.

The school board unanimously agreed on Monday to approve the submission of PlanCon A and General Education Specifications to the Pennsylvania Department of Education for the additions and alterations to the school at a cost of $19,930,000.

That decision came after the board approved the district wide facility study as presented by KCBA Architects, of Hatfield, Montgomery County, during the meeting held at the Lehigh Career & Technical Institute in Schnecksville.

As per the plan, Slatington Elementary will maintain its grade 3-6 configuration, while six classrooms will be added to address space concerns.

Also, the plan will reconfigure open concept classrooms into individual classrooms, and construct an addition to house the third grade.

The gymnasium will remain in its present location; a movable partition will be added for program flexibility; the existing locker area will be modified to increase gym seating capacity; and secure community access will be provided.

In addition, the elementary offices will be relocated to the first floor entrance; a new two-story complex will be built at the front of the building to house the district's administration offices; former modular offices will be removed and the area restored; and direct public access will be provided to district administration offices without requiring access to the school.

Some of the pros associated with the plan are that the desired grade configuration will be maintained; classrooms will be improved; the location of the elementary offices to the front entrance will be improved; removing district administration offices from the school will improve security for both by avoiding the mixing of the public and students; and it will combine the district administration offices into one facility to improve operating efficiencies.

Based upon enrollment projections which predict steady enrollment to slightly declining enrollment over the next 10 years, the project isn't required to increase overall district capacity, said James Clough, Principal-In-Charge, KCBA Architects.

Clough said the enrollment projections were evaluated through Pennsylvania Department of Education data, as well as Pennsylvania Economy League data.

Also, the consolidation of the district administration offices from temporary modular construction could allow PDE reimbursement in the amount of 25 to 33 percent on a yearly basis over the course of the next 15 years.

Three other options were presented to the board for its consideration.

Option one would have left Slatington Elementary with a grade 3-6 configuration, but would have had to construct an addition to house the sixth grade at a cost of $23,660,000.

Option two would have switched Slatington Elementary to a grade 3-5 configuration, and would have moved the sixth grade to the middle school at a cost of $24,975,000.

Option three would have switched Slatington Elementary to a grade 3-5 configuration, moved sixth grade to the middle school, and would have constructed an addition for music and special education classes at a cost of $21,850,000.

Director Lori Geronikos asked Superintendent Michael Michaels whether he felt confident with the option the board chose.

"Do you feel this is the most educationally sound decision to make"? Geronikos asked.

Michaels told Geronikos he felt very strongly about leaving the district's current grade configuration intact, which option four allows for.

In a related matter, business manager Jeremy Melber discussed an option with the board in which the district would borrow $20 million, at which point it could float two $10 million bonds.

However, doing so could lend itself to anywhere from a half-mill to a .06-mill increase over the first three years if the board approves to start construction on the project, Melber said.

If that is the action taken by the board, Melber said the millage increase would go in effect from the 2010-11 school year up through the 2012-13 school year.

The board didn't take any action on the matter.

Last month, the board announced four design team meetings would be held to determine how the school would look.

That decision came after the board agreed in August to spend $1.1 million to renovate the school.

Also at that time, the board approved KCBA as the architect for the addition and renovation project at a fixed fee of $1,019,651. That fee represents 6.21-percent of the project's estimated construction costs.

In addition, there was an additional $51,655 fee for LEED Certification consulting. That contract was based on the Request for Proposals, and no other costs were to be considered without board approval.

The board also agreed at that time to continue its agreement with D'Huy Engineers for the design phase of the project in an amount not to exceed $95,000.

In February, the board agreed to move ahead with the renovation project, as well as to write a Request for Proposals and advertise for bids from an architectural firm.

That decision came after Michaels urged the board to advertise for the RFP's in an attempt to rehabilitate the building, which he previously said was in dire need of repair.

Michaels previously voiced concerns with safety and security, as well as the building's heating, ventilation, air conditioning and plumbing.

Constructed in 1971, Slatington Elementary is the only one of four buildings in the district never to have undergone any renovation work.

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