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Township site picked for new Chambersburg high school

December 01, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Chambersburg Area School District now has someplace to put a new high school after it approved the $3 million purchase of three parcels totaling 78.12 acres near the intersection of U.S. 11 and Pa. 997 in Greene Township on Wednesday night.

In an area known as Greenvillage, two of the parcels are part of what was known as the Friese Farm, which had been owned by the late George W. and Stella Friese, Business Manager Rick Vensel said. The land, totaling more than 68 acres, is owned by the couple's family, Gerald and Kathleen Ann Gelwicks of New Cumberland, Pa., and Rose M. Salter of Camp Hill, Pa., and is being sold to the district for $39,000 per acre, Vensel said.

The remaining 9.5 acres is part of an adjacent property belonging to Dennis R. and Lisa G. Diehl of Greene Township and is going for $40,000 per acre, Vensel said.

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Superintendent Edwin Sponseller said George Friese had been a member of the Greene Township Board of School Directors before the consolidation of the Chambersburg Area School District in 1966. Stella Friese was a teacher at Grandview Elementary School, he said. As part of the sales agreement, the library of the high school will be named in the couple's honor, he said.

The board voted 9-0 in favor of the $3,056,180 purchase.

Board member Dave Sciamanna said before the vote "that area has a severe transportation challenge" and that the district might need to consider condemning some property to make some improvements to the intersection.

Earlier in the meeting, district resident Marlin Wagner said the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce endorsed a plan in August 2002 to remodel and expand the existing high school.

Wagner said the board was being "hasty" and suggested the vote could have waited until a new board is sworn in later this month.

The district has been looking for land on which to build a high school for more than a year and a half, Board President Craig Musser said in September. In 2004, the board voted to incur debt of up to $116 million for a high school and two elementary schools as part of a building program.

"We have most of the educational design finished," said Richard Bender, the district's director of buildings and grounds. Still, from the point of beginning the building design and approval process to occupying the school is, he said, "about a 40-month process."

"I don't think they've definitely decided how big they want that building," Bender said of the school board.

The board's discussions have been about a four-grade, 2,800-student school costing approximately $83 million. Recently, however, the board reviewed a study by the Pennsylvania Economy League that estimated the district's secondary population will be about 3,100 students by 2015.

Bender said the preliminary designs for a high school "use every piece of that property."

The existing Chambersburg Area Senior High School in the borough of Chambersburg is 50 years old and has more than 1,800 students in grades 10, 11 and 12.

The membership of the board will change next month when it reorganizes as a result of the November election. Paul Ambrose will be replacing Robert Helman on the board and Norman Blowers will replace Eugene Gayman.

"It's one of those things they hurried up and they should have waited for the new board" to be sworn in, Ambrose said after the vote. Ambrose and Blowers will be sworn in on Dec. 7.

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