Pa. district on the Road to new school

February 25, 2005|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

McCONNELLSBURG, PA. - Come September, some teachers in the Forbes Road School District won't have to push carts holding their teaching materials from classroom to classroom.

A two-story high school building under construction will be ready for the start of school this fall. It will be attached to the Forbes Road Elementary School by a common corridor. Teachers will be able to trade their pushcarts for permanent classrooms.

Larry Palmer, superintendent of the rural, two-school district in northern Fulton County, said the new building means that he and James Heroux, principal of Forbes Road High School, will have larger offices than the concrete-block-wall cubbyholes they occupy now.


Palmer's desk and chair, two small visitor chairs, a bookcase and file cabinet barely leave room to move around.

Conditions are similar in Heroux's office next door.

The district has about 500 students in grades kindergarten through 12 with 300 in the kindergarten-sixth grade elementary school and 200 students in grades seven through 12 in the high school building.

Connecting both buildings will improve security for students because they will no longer have go outside to cross into another building for some classes, Palmer said.

It also will give the schools more flexibility, he said.

Forbes Road students will have their first auditorium. Now, folding chairs are carried into the gym when they need a large space for assemblies, performances and major gatherings.

The auditorium will be available to all grades, Palmer said.

Next year, the district will have its own music and art rooms, also to be shared by all students.

The first floor of the new high school will house the 500-seat auditorium, the new regulation-size gym, two shop classrooms, a cafeteria with a kitchen shared with the elementary school, the library, administration offices, three science classrooms and a locker room. The second floor will contain classrooms, Heroux said.

Space was saved by eliminating the need for a computer lab in the new high school. "We use wireless laptops," Palmer said.

"The big advantage," Heroux said, "is that we'll have three curriculum areas - performing arts area in the auditorium, a three-classroom science area and two side-by-side shops."

Only 12 classrooms are in the existing high school, which was built in 1959 in a "pod" format, a state-of-the-art plan 46 years ago, Palmer said.

"It was a patented design. There is another school in eastern Pennsylvania just like it," he said.

Forbes Road High School has three pods running off the building's main core.

"Providing the money holds out," Palmer said plans call for removing all three pods to make room for parking and other uses. The central core of the building will be kept for storage, Palmer said.

The cost for construction, furnishings and equipment topped $10 million.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education put up $2.3 million. The rest will be raised by a 7 mill tax increase running through 2009, Palmer said.

Population in Fulton County increased by about 1 percent according to the last census, Palmer said.

"It's just a matter of time before Fulton County starts to grow. It's already happening in the southern part of the county," he said.

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