Substance and size weighed in Chambersburg school plans

July 17, 2003|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Chambersburg Area School District is trying to come up with a high school building plan tailored around a set of educational specifications, but fitting everything onto approximately 37 acres will be a challenge for the school board.

In March the board voted to authorize the administration to spend up to $50,000 for a study to determine if a comprehensive ninth- through 12th-grade high school complex could be built at the site of the existing high school and district-owned property across the street.

As part of that process, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Eric Michael met with department heads at the school to develop a set of educational specifications. Michael reviewed those specifications Wednesday night to mixed reviews by the school board.


"It's a wish list," said board member Michael Finucane. "This document does not explain how you'd put a comprehensive nine through 12 school on this site."

Finucane said the district could not build a school on the site and meet all the recommended educational specifications. Those included baseball, football and soccer fields, a buffer zone with the surrounding community and a large driver's education driving range.

"This is a visionary document," Michael said. How many of the specifications can be met at the current site would have to be determined by an architect, he said. A school of this size could require up to 125 acres, but the district could set its own limitations, he said.

"I don't think there any ways any architect could put all the things in this document on one site," said board President Stanley Helman.

"This is the first time I've seen curriculum driving a building. I think it's a tremendous accomplishment," board member Harold W. Fosnot said. He said it could be done if the district asked architects to consider some of the off-campus sites it already uses for some courses and events, such as the Franklin County Career and Technology Center, Henninger Field and the YMCA.

Driver's education, for example, could be accommodated at the technology center, Fosnot said.

The existing high school has grades 10 through 12 and is currently undergoing a $10 million upgrade of it heating and air-conditioning system, along with technological upgrades that would rewire every classroom for the Internet and to accommodate more computers.

Director of Facilities Richard Bender said more than half the work scheduled for this summer is completed. Some construction will continue during the school year and the project is scheduled for completion next summer.

The board has been debating a number of options for a new high school, including one school for freshmen and sophomores and another for juniors and seniors, either on the current site or separate locations. Others have advocated a new campus for all four grades at another location.

The board decided to hold a workshop session on Wednesday, Aug. 6, to further refine the educational specifications.

"I think we all know building a high school will be a long and laborious process," Superintendent Edwin Sponseller said.

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