Chambersburg School Board seeks comment on high school expansion

August 09, 2007|By JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - Little public comment was offered at a hearing Wednesday designed to generate remarks concerning $73.8 million of renovation and expansion at Chambersburg Area Senior High School.

An Act 34 hearing, part of the so-called Taj Mahal Act, is required under Pennsylvania's public school code when schools are built or significantly expanded.

The Chambersburg proposal calls for the South Sixth Street building to more than double from its present 185,000 square feet.

"We're putting in in excess of 300,000 square feet. ... At the end, it'll top 500,000 square feet," said Paul Taylor of architectural firm Crabtree Rohrbaugh & Associates of Mechanicsburg, Pa.

The school board's justifications for expansion include existing plumbing deficiencies, projected population growth, handicapped accessibility and the incorporation of ninth grade in the building, according to a document read into the hearing's legal record.


George Schmidt of Fayetteville, Pa., looked for assurances from the architect that the building will be completely handicapped-accessible. Schmidt, one of approximately 45 people at the hearing, was told it will be.

Schmidt also asked the school board to remember the slowing housing market as it embarks on a project that could have 6.96 mills of property taxes dedicated to it annually for about 25 years. The state agreed to reimburse Chambersburg about 12 cents for every dollar it spends on principal and interest, officials said.

"It is my understanding that part of the school board or school district's operations is based on the real estate transfer fee. ... I would ask the school board to keep that in mind for next year's budget," Schmidt said.

Stephen Schoonmaker of Chambersburg praised the recent stadium renovation and shared favorable comments from this month's drum and bugle corps show there.

He encouraged the board to continue with the high school renovation.

"The school district plays an important factor in people coming to this area. ... For younger families, this school district has been an asset to the town," he said.

Ken Mummert, who said he has lived in Greene Township for 45 years, asked the school board to pursue closing McKinley Street from Fourth Street to Sixth Street.

"Being here the other Friday, leaving around 9:30, it didn't look very safe with all the people going to and fro," Mummert said.

"You could send your employees out there on the first day of school, put trusses across and say 'closed,'" he said, generating chuckles from several board members.

Margaret Hollar, a retired teacher, questioned the planned layout of the renovated building, which separates each grade from the others.

She said teachers already complained that the administration was too far from classrooms.

"Are there any plans for putting a ninth-grade, 10th-grade, 11th-grade or 12th-grade principal in those areas?" she asked.

One room in each "house" will be designated for administrative services, the architect said.

The existing high school is on 21 acres and serves grades 10 to 12. The ninth grade will be transferred from J. Frank Faust Junior High School, making both Faust and Chambersburg Area Middle School buildings that serve grades 6 to 8.

"We're going to remove parts of the building that are too small, outdated or don't work," Taylor said. "The students will attend school in the existing building as we build new."

Know more

The issue: Chambersburg Area Senior High School will be renovated and expanded in a project that will more than double its size by 2011. On June 13, the school board set the maximum project cost at $73.8 million.

What's new: The board received public input and more details about the project during a public hearing Wednesday night.

What's next: The school board is looking to send the project out for bids by the end of the year.

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