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Waynesboro schools showing age

March 04, 1999|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Technology and failing heating systems, not the student population, have prompted Waynesboro Area School District leaders to look at how their aging buildings are holding up.

A committee appointed by the school board began its study of the buildings a year ago. In its report to the board, the committee said the district needs more classrooms and major upgrades of the mechanical systems in three of its aging schools.

The district covers Waynesboro as well as Washington and Quincy townships. It has about 4,000 students in six schools - Waynesboro Area Senior High, Waynesboro Middle and Summitview, Fairview Avenue, Hooverville and Mowrey elementary schools.

Classroom space has shrunk to critically low levels because classrooms have given way to the district's growing computer technology. Also, said Michael Mahr, one of three school board members on the 19-member fact-finding committee, the district has had to convert seven regular classrooms into special education rooms.

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The district's student population is stable and is projected to drop in the next year or two, said Schools Superintendent Robert Mesaros. He cautioned that projections are sometimes wrong and the opposite could happen.

Some of the fact-finding committee members will serve on a new committee being formed to study solutions to the space and mechanical problems, Mesaros said.

That could include a range of options, from additions and renovations of existing buildings, to rearranging the existing class structure to new school construction, he said.

The high school, middle school and Summitview Elementary all have heating and ventilation systems that are at least 25 years old and need major modernizations, Mesaros said. Some schools have antiquated heating systems that have individual heat pumps embedded in the ceilings of each classroom. Only 20 percent of the high school building is air conditioned, he said.

Electrical service in most buildings is not adequate to handle the demands of the new computer technology, Mesaros said. "Some classrooms only have one receptacle. We've had to add some," he said.

Mahr said the board must look to the future. "We have to be focused on 15 years from now spacewise and technology-wise, not two or three years from now," he said. "We have to make a legitimate plan for down the road."

Mesaros said plans by Quincy Township to extend water and sewer lines in the next five years will bring growth there.

The last school construction bond issue was more than 10 years ago.

New state funding rules will give local districts more money to fix up older school buildings, a fact that was briefly considered by the board recently when the old East Junior High School came up for discussion. The board sold the vacant building on East Main Street to Waynesboro Hospital for $500,000 in 1990. Hospital administrators have put a selling price on the building of $1.5 million, Mesaros said.

He said it would be cheaper to build a new school than to renovate the East Junior High building.

"About the only thing you could salvage are the outside brick walls," he said.

"I would never vote to buy it back," Mahr said.

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