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School to be torn down before new one is built

January 05, 2007|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - U.L. Gordy Elementary School will close at the end of the school year and be demolished to make way for a larger school at the same site, Superintendent Joseph Padasak said Thursday.

"July 1st, that school's gone," Padasak said. "It's all about safety. There'll be cranes on that site 30 or 40 feet high."

"It's imperative to have the Gordy students in another location" during construction, said Catherine Dusman, the assistant superintendent of elementary services.

"I concur with that decision ... The construction zone is going to take up almost the whole property," leaving little room for children to play outside, School Board President Thomas Orndorf said.

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Gordy has a capacity of 175 students in grades kindergarten through fifth grade and was built in 1961, according to district figures. No decision has been made as to where the students will go during construction, but Padasak said there will be classroom space available next year at Hamilton Heights Elementary and Fayetteville Elementary.

Hamilton Heights added a wing that opened this week. A new Fayetteville Elementary, with four classrooms for each grade, is scheduled to open for the 2007-08 school year.

Padasak said other options include leasing classroom space at a suitable site near the school.

The decision to close the school does not require Pennsylvania Department of Education approval, Padasak said. The closing is essentially "temporary," he said, because a new school will be built on the site.

When a school is closed permanently, the state requires a public hearing, Padasak said. Gordy will be closed three semesters while the old building is demolished and the new school constructed.

The new school is designed for at least four classrooms for each grade and a capacity of more than 600 students.

"The goal is to open the school Jan. 1, 2009," Padasak said. The district's plan was to open the school at the beginning of the 2008-09 school year, but there have been delays in the planning process, Padasak said.

The main delay was in getting a highway occupancy permit from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, Padasak said. The existing school's street address is Miller Street, but the entrance will be off Franklin Street when the new one is built, he said.

The project is supposed to go out for bids in March, he said.

Although Padasak said safety is the main consideration in closing the school, it could also save money on the project, which is budgeted not to exceed $21.1 million, including furnishings, equipment, permitting costs and architectural fees. Having the school demolished before construction begins should make the excavation, site work and construction easier for contractors, he said.

While the new Fayetteville elementary is under construction, the existing school next to it has remained open. Orndorf said that has presented some problems, even though the site is much larger.

Gordy will be on about eight acres in Chambersburg that includes the West End Playground, which the borough deeded to the district.

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