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Pa. school projects may face long delay

May 06, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - When the Chambersburg School Board adopts a long-range facilities master plan, it may take another two years before construction begins and a decade or more to complete all the projects, Business Manager Rick Vensel said.

A 45-member task force Tuesday examined a number of options for meeting the building requirements of the district, with most of the discussion focusing on the high school. Many members of the group signaled their approval for a proposal to group students in "pods" by grade or career pathway, while sharing common facilities.

"If you are going to undertake a high school job of this size, from the day you decide to do it, it's going to be two years before you turn dirt," Vensel said Wednesday.

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Construction of the school would take another three or more years, he said.

The district also has 18 elementary schools, and the options reviewed Tuesday would consolidate that number down to between seven and 10. Vensel said planning for one school is generally 18 to 24 months, and construction is another 18 to 36 months.

Vensel said there is a limit on how many building projects can be tackled at once.

"If you're running three major construction projects in a district this size, you've got your hands full," he said.

Vensel went through a similar major building program in the Cumberland Valley School District in Mechanicsburg, Pa., before coming to Chambersburg about 3 1/2 years ago.

The secondary school options reviewed Tuesday ranged from $110 million to $155 million in cost. The elementary school options carried price tags of between $47 million and $75 million.

"Many communities take seven to 10 years to make a decision like this," Superintendent Edwin Sponseller said.

Board member Robert Helman said Wednesday the decision- making process is in its third year in Chambersburg. Once the task force has finished its work, he hopes the school board can reach a consensus in the near future.

"I want to make sure we have a place to put one high school," Helman said.

The options presented to the task force by Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates indicated a new school would need approximately 70 acres of land at a cost of $3 million or more.

All the secondary school options reviewed Tuesday included plans for two middle schools for grades six, seven and eight. Chambersburg Area Middle School and Faust Junior High could be used as middle schools, or the existing high school could be converted to one under the various scenarios.

Of the four main options for elementary schools, Crabtree, Rohrbaugh suggested the new Scotland school, Hamilton Heights, South Hamilton, Buchanan, Stevens and Falling Spring all be retained with additions and renovations.

Lurgan, which is scheduled for a $2.2 million upgrade, was included in three of the four options. The fate of other schools would be determined by how many elementary schools the district needs.

The task force's final meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 18.

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