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Lehighton Area School District Committee will work on design

Published August 13. 2014 04:00PM

A design committee is in place for Lehighton Area School District's proposed $32.5 million elementary center.

Superintendent Jonathan Cleaver said the group, comprising board members, residents, teachers, support staff and administrators, will discuss the layout of the approximately 140,000-square-foot building, which would house all kindergarten through fifth-grade students in the district.

"It will be around a 30-person committee," Cleaver said recently. "Because it's a new building, we wanted input from different sectors, and that required a larger group."

The elementary center design committee will meet for the first time Wednesday night.

Other building proposals in Lehighton involve renovations to the district's middle school for $10.7 million and to the high school for $9.3 million. Smaller committees will meet to discuss those projects.

"The design is staying the same at those buildings, but we still wanted to put a team together to look at them," Cleaver said.

Cleaver assigned each board member to one of the three committees.

Gloria Bowman, Wayne Wentz, Stephen Holland and Andrew Yenser will serve on the elementary center committee. Larry Stern, Hal Resh and Rocky Ahner will lead the middle school team. William J. Hill Jr. and Lori Nothstein round out the high school committee.

During a construction workshop Monday night, Hill questioned how board members would find out what was happening with the other two committees.

"Notes will be taken and distributed to board members and made available for the community," Cleaver said. "Everyone will be kept updated."

Hill requested the board receive hard copies of the committee meeting recaps to avoid "Internet nonsense."

"I don't want to see any 11th-hour motions come out of this either," Hill said. "I'll tell you right now, if I don't have something a week ahead of time, I won't act on it. If I don't have documentation and justification to vote on something, it just won't happen."

In an attempt to keep the public informed about Lehighton's building projects, Cleaver said, he plans to author fact sheets with pertinent proposal numbers and information.

The full school board, for months, has been grappling with whether to build a new elementary school or renovate its four existing elementary schools; East Penn, Mahoning, Shull-David and Franklin. District estimates list both at $32.5 million.

"With the architect and all the experts we have involved in this process, if we don't get this right, shame on us," Hill said. "We have to all get on board and we need facts. If we don't have facts and figures, how can we make an intelligent position."

Bowman, board president, warned that Lehighton should be careful not to "repeat errors made in the 1990s," when Lehighton High School was built.

"In the long run, this has cost the taxpayers more money due to having to make continued corrections of mechanical and exterior issues," Bowman said Monday. "We spent $275,179 last year in mechanical repairs at the high school without addressing its major mechanical flaws or exterior issues. Despite community assumptions and perceptions, the board is doing its due diligence not to be back in that situation again."

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