School fix-up to boost tax bills

June 15, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - The $11.5 million cost of renovating the 50-year-old James Buchanan Middle School will raise an average Tuscarora School District taxpayer's annual bill by about $80 a year, the district's finance officer said.

Dick Lipella said taxpayers will see a phased-in adjustment of one mill a year over the next four years.

The state's share of the project will be about 28 percent, said William Konzal, district superintendent.

Bids for the project, which represents a major overhaul of the middle school building, are scheduled to go out this fall, Konzal said.

The work involves construction of eight new classrooms and four new science labs - two on the first floor and two on the second - as well as the installation of new heating and air conditioning, new windows and major electrical and lighting upgrades.


The entrance, now facing Pa. 75, will be shifted to the rear. The main office will also be shifted from the middle of the building to the relocated front entrance, enhancing security, Konzal said.

The current front entrance parking lot will be improved and will be used mostly by faculty and employees.

The media center will be modernized and relocated. A new multi-purpose room with a gymnasium and stage area is included in the building plans, as is a new television studio.

The district's two computer technology coordinators will have a work station in the newly renovated middle school.

The school employs team teaching. The new space will lend itself to the practice by separating learning areas for grades six, seven and eight. The students will still meet in common areas such as the cafeteria, which also is being renovated and expanded.

The project will give the middle school its first band room and will eliminate the need for two trailers being used for special and alternative classrooms.

The construction will be completed first so students will have classroom space while the older parts of the building undergo renovations, Konzal said.

The school enrolls about 700 students. Districtwide, there are about 2,600 students. Enrollment has remained stable in recent years, Konzal said.

The middle school was last renovated in the early 1960s.

The School Board hired a consultant to conduct a major facilities study of all six schools in the district plus the building that houses the central office.

James Buchanan High School is about 30 years old and needs some work, Konzal said.

The district needs to take a hard look at two of its four elementary schools -Montgomery Elementary on Pa. 75 south of Mercersburg and Mountain View Elementary on Pa. 75 north. Both are short of space and need mechanical upgrades.

The electrical system is so bad in Montgomery Elementary that "you've got to unplug something to plug something else in," Lipella said.

Both schools are more than 40 years old.

Twenty-five-year-old Mercersburg Elementary and St. Thomas Elementary, which was last renovated in the early 1990s, "are OK for now," Konzal said.

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