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Study says school repairs could cost up to $135 million

June 07, 2000|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Renovating most of the buildings in the Chambersburg Area School District could cost between $107 million to $135 million, according to a draft of a feasibility study reviewed by the Board of School Directors Wednesday night.

The study by Foreman Architects Engineers of Manheim, Pa., included a dozen different scenarios for all but five of the district's 21 schools, according to Phillip G. Foreman. The exceptions are Faust Junior High School and four elementary schools that have either been renovated or expanded in recent years, or are relatively new.

Some of the scenarios recommend closing some elementaries and expanding others and there are four options for the high school, Foreman said.

Options for the high school range from $33 million to more than $40 million, depending on whether it serves 10th through 12th grades, or is expanded to include 9th grade classes, Foreman said. The study included moving the cafeteria to a different level; replacing the heating and air conditioning system, lighting, power distribution, windows and roof; adding fiber optics; and making the building comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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Superintendent Dr. Edwin Sponseller said the school board must first decide on grade configurations for the elementary and secondary schools before any decisions can be made on what renovations or new construction will take place. He said a forum will be held in September to get the public's input.

Business manager George Fike said a realistic timetable for the improvements would be 12 to 15 years. Any projects would have to be funded through one or more bonds issues and real estate tax increases would be inevitable, he said.

"Our current debt ceiling is $129 million, minus the $12 million we already owe," Fike said, meaning the district can borrow up to $117 million now. The district's debt service is more than $3 million a year, but will decrease to about $500,000 in 2005-2006, he said.

How much the district pays for renovations depends on how much it can be reimbursed by the state. Foreman outlined one option for renovating Scotland Elementary School that would be eligible for a 22 to 26 percent reimbursement from the state.

Reimbursements, however, are dependent on a building being brought completely up to current building standards, Foreman said. If the board decided only to replace the heating and air conditioning at a school without addressing other deficiencies, it would not be reimbursed.

"Obviously we can't renovate every building at once," Sponseller said. "Some priorities are going to have to be set," he said.

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