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New U. L. Gordy school OK'd by slim margin in Chambersburg

April 15, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - U.L. Gordy Head Teacher Bernadette Benbow was pleased with the decision Wednesday by the Chambersburg School Board to replace her building with a larger school in the same neighborhood.

"We want it here and I think our parents want it here," Benbow said Thursday. Having a new school in nearly the same location, she said, keeps it a neighborhood school and gives families "a sense of ownership."

The board voted 5-4 Wednesday night to build a new U.L. Gordy with three classrooms for each grade to open in the 2008-09 school year, but will have to acquire a 5 3/4-acre parcel of land next door that is now the borough's West End Playground.

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Board President Craig Musser and board members Stanley Helman, Robert Helman, Fred Rice and Eugene Gayman voted in favor of the plan. Board members David Sciamanna, Lori Leedy, Renee Sharpe and Thomas Orndorf voted against the proposal, which was tabled at the board's March meeting.

The existing school has one classroom per grade and 152 students, but no gymnasium or cafeteria, said Benbow.

"Our kids eat in the classroom," she said.

Benbow said keeping the school in the same area will allow many students to continue walking to school, as well as some of the students from the King Street and Mary B. Sharpe schools, which the district plans to close when the new U.L. Gordy opens.

"A lot of our kids' parents don't have transportation," said Benbow. Without a school nearby, many would be unable to take part in extracurricular activities, she said.

Business Manager Rick Vensel said Thursday the district will now have to negotiate with the borough to acquire the land. "There seems to be a consensus on their board that this will be a very positive thing for the West End," he said.

"This proposal has a lot of benefits for the West End of Chambersburg," Borough Manager Eric Oyer said. Those include a new facility with a gymnasium, cafeteria and playground area that could be used by the community, and the possibility of bringing more young families into that part of town, he said.

Oyer said the borough would seek fair market value for the land. Combined with the present Gordy site, Vensel said the district would have about 8 acres for the school.

No cost estimate for the building is available at this time, Vensel said.

The money to pay for the school construction will come from the $116 million bond issue the board authorized last fall, although money for the purchase of the land could come from the district's capital improvement fund, Superintendent Edwin Sponseller said Thursday.

When the board originally agreed to incur the debt, the building plan called for a new high school and two elementary schools. In March, the board voted to move forward with planning for a new Fayetteville Elementary with four classrooms per grade and to expand Hamilton Heights Elementary.

Architect Paul Taylor of Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates of Mechanicsburg, Pa., last month estimated the cost of Fayetteville at $13.4 million, and the price of expanding Hamilton Heights at $1.8 million. The board has also approved $3.8 million for new boilers, windows and other energy-saving improvements at Faust Junior High School.

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