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High school land purchase put on hold

October 11, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A plan to buy approximately 100 acres of land for a new high school north of Chambersburg has encountered a roadblock, Chambersburg School Board President Craig Musser said Monday.

On the agenda for Wednesday's meeting was a request to authorize the administration to enter into contracts to purchase three tracts of land with an option to buy a fourth. Monday afternoon, however, Musser said the request for authorization likely will be pulled from the agenda.

"In no way will the contracts be ready to sign," Musser said. "One of the landowners involved has more issues we need to work through before we can finalize the contracts."

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"I'm hopeful we'll be buying land for a new high school," Musser said. "At this point, I'm not convinced this site will be the site until we talk to the owners more."

Musser said he could not identify the property owner, the property or the outstanding issues while negotiations are ongoing.

For more than a year, the district actively has been looking for land on which to build a 2,800-student high school housing four grades. The 50-year-old Chambersburg Area Senior High School in the borough has approximately 1,800 students in 10th, 11th and 12th grades.

Superintendent Edwin Sponseller said the three tracts proposed for purchase total about 100 acres and are north of the borough.

Last year, when the board authorized the district to incur up to $116 million in indebtedness to pay for a new high school and two new elementary schools, the estimate for land acquisition was $5 million, including land for another new elementary school, Business Manager Rick Vensel said.

The price for a new high school - without the land - was estimated at $83 million, but "those numbers were generated about 11/2 years ago," Vensel said. The figure will have to be "revisited" to take into account construction price increases and other factors.

The high school project has stalled while the district searches for land. After land is acquired, Vensel said designing and building the school could take another five years.

The resolution for the land purchase also includes an administration request to begin negotiations to buy a 15-acre site for a school to replace Grandview Elementary. The resolution reads that the new school have four or five classrooms per grade.

Grandview Elementary, at 5538 Cumberland Highway, was built in 1950 and underwent renovations and expansion in 1963, Vensel said. It has two classrooms per grade, he said.

The resolution also calls for the administration to "investigate" expanding Thaddeus Stevens Elementary on Hollywell Avenue to four or five classrooms per grade. Vensel said the school, built in 1974, has two classrooms in each grade and likely can be expanded on its 16.4-acre site.

Sponseller said the proposal for Stevens was made by Musser after discussions with the borough about impending development in the southwestern part of Chambersburg that could increase the student population in that area.

Wednesday's meeting agenda also included an administration request for the district to issue up to $38 million in bonds, part of the $116 million authorized last year, to pay for high school land, construction of elementary schools to replace Fayetteville and U.L. Gordy and expansion of Hamilton Heights Elementary, Sponseller said.

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