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Chambersburg moves forward on building plan

September 28, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Three options were up for discussion for the Chambersburg Area School District building program Wednesday night, but it was a fourth option - renovating the high school and building a comprehensive career and technology center for $90 million - that the school board approved on a 5-4 vote.

The board approved a plan to renovate Chambersburg Area Senior High School for grades nine through 12 at a cost not to exceed $50 million. In the same motion, it also approved building a comprehensive career center at a cost not to exceed $40 million and making Faust Junior High School and Chambersburg Area Middle School into middle schools for grades six through eight.

The board was divided on the best way to suit the district's secondary school needs, as it was two years ago when it voted to incur up to $116 million in debt to build a single 2,800-student high school and two middle schools.

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Board members Stanley Helman, David Sciamanna, Fred Rice, Norman Blowers and Paul Ambrose voted for the plan. Board President Craig Musser and board members Renee Sharpe, Lori Leedy and Thomas Orndorf voted no.

The scope of the high school and career center projects is to be presented to the board by April 1. Perhaps the biggest question is where the career center will be built.

Helman said there are three career center options. One is to build at the site of the Franklin County Career and Technology Center, which students from the six districts in the county use for career training.

The second is that Chambersburg take over the center and charge the other districts for providing career education, Helman said. The third is for the district to go it alone and build a totally separate career center, probably at the 78-acre site it purchased near Greenvillage for secondary school expansion.

The options will be studied over the next six months and presented to the board no later than April 1, according to the resolution.

"Are you pretty confident you'll have an answer in six months?" Orndorf asked, referring to the approvals that might be required from the other participating districts in the career and technology center.

"We can't agree as one school district what to do with this issue, let alone six school districts," Leedy said of the career and technology proposal. Leedy once favored one large high school, but now believe students "need two high schools."

"No matter what plan we opt for, if we commit ourselves to making it work it will work," Sciamanna said before the vote. The plan, he said, puts students in two nine-through-12 schools, deals with secondary overcrowding and addresses the needs of "kids in the academic middle."

"We need to have smaller schools and smaller environments for our students," said Sharpe, who stated she was in favor of two high schools.

"Two high schools are going to have a lot higher costs," Rice said. Under Act 1, the state's property tax relief law, the cost of building two schools might require voters to approve the plan through a referendum.

"In reality, we're building two high schools. That's all we know tonight," said Richard Bender, the district's buildings and grounds director. Both CASHS and a career center will be nine-through-12 schools with academic programs, he said.

Business Manager Rick Vensel said the taxation restrictions implied by Act 1 are unclear, but the plan adopted Wednesday could probably be built without going to a referendum.

Only one of the three other building options got a vote and it was rejected unanimously. That plan was to renovate the high school, build a career center for up to 1,000 students, make CAMS a middle school and build another middle school in Greenvillage.

The second option was to leave grades 10 through 12 at CASHS, build a career center for 500 to 1,000 students, have middle schools at CAMS and Greenvillage and make Faust a ninth-grade school. The third option would renovate CASHS, build a high school at Greenvillage and have CAMS and Faust as middle schools.

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