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Growing pains and gains

Pa. schools review continued building projects as growth continues in area

Pa. schools review continued building projects as growth continues in area

April 10, 2006|by JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, PA.

Spurred by the county's estimated 2 percent growth rate, Franklin County, Pa., school districts have at least $83 million worth of construction projects on tap for the next five years.

Officials in the Greencastle-Antrim School District expect to double the current school population sometime between 2010 and 2015. The Chambersburg Area School District is preparing to have more than 10,000 students by 2015, up from the 8,400 enrolled today.

"We're running out of room. We're filling up," Greencastle-Antrim School District Superintendent P. Duff Rearick said.

A committee formed by the Greencastle-Antrim School Board is preparing a strategic plan with immediate and long-term solutions, Rearick said.

The Chambersburg Area School District opened a new, 450-pupil elementary school in December 2004 but is far from finished with building projects. Business Manager Rick Vensel ran down a list of multimillion-dollar capital projects slated for the next several years - reconstruct Trojan Stadium; upgrade heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems at Guilford Hills Elementary School; add on to Hamilton Heights Elementary School; build a new Fayetteville Elementary School; build a new U.L. Gordy Elementary School; and renovate or construct a new Grandview Elementary School.

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The school board also recently purchased 78 acres in Greene Township for a secondary school.

"There is a plan to phase the cost of this construction in," Vensel said.

Waynesboro Area School District taxpayers are looking at an additional 9.63 mills of taxes by the end of the decade to fund the district's $40 million high school renovation project. Two mills already have been worked into the budget for the renovation.

Plans call for a new, three-court gymnasium and two-level auditorium to be added onto the east side of the school. The renovation would replace the existing auditorium with a cafeteria, move the library to the current food service area and convert the media center into classrooms.

During a public hearing last December, several taxpayers asked the school board to consider building a new high school and were told that initiative would cost $20 million more than the renovation.

The Gettysburg Area School Board in neighboring Adams County, Pa., heard the opposite request from residents when it embarked on a $41 million project to build a new high school in the 1990s, District Superintendent David Mowery said.

"There was a big push to renovate the old high school. Renovating the old high school would have limited our abilities later on," Mowery said.

Tuscarora School District in the southwestern portion of Franklin County is wrapping up a $24 million endeavor to rehabilitate three buildings.

Commenting on the Waynesboro renovation, Tuscarora School District Superintendent Thomas Stapleford said his district probably saved money by starting construction when interest rates were lower.

"The building has been completely redone," James Buchanan Middle School Principal Chuck Rahauser said. "It fits in with the needs of the community. I just think it's very comfortable."

"It's not overdone. It's a fresh, clean look," Stapleford said.

Tuscarora School Board's goals called for safety and handicapped accessibility improvements, learning spaces that are flexible, air conditioning and upgrades allowing students to use current technology, according to Stapleford.

Stapleford said the overall community feedback has been that the Tuscarora School Board spent an acceptable amount of money on the schools, although some people feel three schools being renovated simultaneously was too ambitious.

"From a physical and logistical standpoint, it was difficult to manage," he said.

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