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Cost of new Pa. school escalates to $21 million

July 21, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The cost of a new U.L. Gordy Elementary School has escalated by millions of dollars in the past year to $21 million, prompting debate among Chambersburg School Board members over the project.

Architect Paul Taylor told the board the price could be reduced to $19.5 million by changing its design from three to two stories, but the resulting larger footprint would reduce the playground area on the property. It could also raise construction costs if it more rock is encountered, he said.

The board unanimously approved requesting Pennsylvania Department of Education approval of the three-story plan, which Taylor said does not commit the district to the project. The school is scheduled to open in September 2008.

Taylor said the estimate was about $12 million in early 2005, but construction costs have been escalating and the size of the proposed school has been increased to 4 1/2 classrooms for each grade.

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The district also has an agreement with the Borough of Chambersburg to build tennis courts and a basketball court on the site, which could eliminate a playing field unless the borough agrees to concessions on the courts or school parking, Board President Craig Musser said.

"Many of these kids don't have backyards and they won't have greenspace at school, either," said Lori Leedy, who was among board members opposing the decision to build at the site of the existing school.

The district has received approval from the state to proceed with construction of the new Fayetteville Elementary School. The board last month approved eight contracts totaling $14 million for the school, agreeing to pay more than $300,000 more to contractors to have the building completed in time for the beginning of the 2007-08 school year.

Business Manager Rick Vensel said last month the department approval would be needed by Aug. 1 if the school was to be completed on the accelerated schedule.

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