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Board schedules public hearing on Slatington Elementary renovation

Published February 02. 2010 05:00PM

Those who would like to learn more about the $20.4-million Slatington Elementary renovation project may do so at a special session.

Northern Lehigh School Board will hold an Act 34 public hearing at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the administration building boardroom.

The purpose of the hearing is to present the school and administration office to the public, and to provide them with a public forum to express their opinion.

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

Last month, the board agreed to adopt the Act 34 Resolution, which calls for a total project cost of $20,432,466. Construction is expected to last about 20 months.

In a related matter, the board also agreed at that time to go with a ground source heat pump.

That came after the board in December approved the third phase of the renovation project when it voted to continue the agreement with D'Huy Engineers for the construction phase at a total construction cost not to exceed $475,000.

The board also at that time approved the submission of the Pennsylvania Department of Education's Mandate Waiver Program Application for the school's additions and renovations project.

Prior to that vote, the board heard a lengthy presentation from D'Huy representatives, who said the third phase of the project represents the greatest opportunity for the district to realize a savings and to prevent cost overruns.

Superintendent Michael Michaels previously said the safety of the students, as well as the estimated 40-year life span of the new structure, are matters that should take priority.

The next in a series of building design meetings are scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday; and at noon Feb. 17. The public is invited to attend.

In October, the board agreed 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 districtwide facility study as presented by KCBA Architects, of Hatfield, Montgomery County.

As per the plan, Slatington elementary will maintain its grade 3-6 configuration, and also add six classrooms to address space concerns.

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

In addition, 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.

The plan will also allow for the elementary offices to be relocated to the first floor entrance; a new two-story complex to be built at the front of the building to house the district's administration offices; former modular offices to be removed; and direct public access to be provided to district administration offices without requiring access to the school.

The district believes the plan will maintain the desired grade configuration; the location of the elementary offices to the front entrance will be improved; the removal of district administration offices from the school will improve security for both by avoiding the mixing of the public and students; and will combine the district administration offices into one facility to improve operating efficiencies.

Based upon enrollment projections that predict steady enrollment to slightly declining enrollment over the next 10 years, the project isn't required to increase overall district capacity.

The enrollment projections were evaluated through PDE 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.

Michaels previously said he felt very strongly about leaving the district's current grade configuration intact, the option the board chose over three others.

One option 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.

Another option 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.

Yet another option 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.

Last month, 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 has yet to take any action on Melber's proposal.

In September, the board announced that four initial design team meetings would be held to determine how Slatington elementary 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 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 proposals in an attempt to rehabilitate the building, which he has said is 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.

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