Firms present conceptual plans for high school expansion

October 02, 2003|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Five architectural firms gave the Chambersburg School Board a lot to think about Wednesday night, the first item being which firm will conduct a feasibility study to expand the nearly half-century old high school.

When it opened in the mid-1950s, the school cost $3.26 million and was referred to as "the Taj Mahal of Pennsylvania," according to Mike Hull of Noelker and Hull of Chambersburg, one of the firms competing for the job.

Estimates quoted Wednesday night for expanding the school at its present site, however, ranged from a low of about $28.2 million up to more than $63 million, depending on the layout and options such as a swimming pool and artificial turf for the stadium field.


In March, the board authorized spending up to $50,000 for a study to determine the feasibility of building a ninth- through 12th-grade high school on the existing campus and the former Stanley property across the street, a total of about 37 acres. The high school, which began a modernization program of more than $10 million this past summer, does not have ninth-grade classes.

Each of the firms presented conceptual plans, none of which proposed building a separate school to house two grades on the Stanley property, an idea that occasionally has been raised at board meetings.

The Ray Group of Lancaster, Pa., came up with a quadrangle design that adds new construction to the south end of the high school property, which leaves green space within the middle and moves the stadium across the street.

Tom Crabtree of Crabtree, Rohrbaugh Associates of Mechanicsburg, Pa., offered a site plan that leaves the stadium where it is and builds new wings on either side in a horseshoe configuration. Most of the parking for the school would be moved across McKinley Street to the Stanley property.

EI Associates of Harrisburg, Pa., also proposed moving the stadium across the street to accommodate a large addition to the south side of the high school. There would be a new gymnasium and auditorium, with those areas converted to other uses.

The Noelker and Hull site plan also moves the stadium across the street and student parking across the street with new academic space built around a quad on the existing school site.

Peter Ortiz of Foreman Architects Engineers of Manheim, Pa., presented three options, two of which leave the stadium in place. The plans included "plug-in specialty areas" added to the existing building, along with new wings.

While each firm offered ideas about what the school could look like in the future, the conceptual plans are just a starting point.

"We're not choosing a design. We're choosing a firm to do the study," Rick Vensel, the district's business manager, said at the beginning of Wednesday's special meeting.

Vensel said one or more of the firms will be invited back for additional talks with the district later this month, and a decision on which firm will get the job could be made at the Nov. 12 meeting.

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