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Property-laden Chambersburg school district to study which sites to keep

February 03, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. -- The Chambersburg Area School District, which owns about 400 acres of property at 23 sites scattered throughout the 250-square-mile district, will do a study to determine what properties should be retained to best support the district's needs and what can be sold or donated.

"The pressing issue that put this on the table ... is the Bamboo Building is coming down," Business Manager Rick Vensel said.

The building, so named because of its color, is a cavernous warehouse that will be demolished within two years to make way for additional parking for Chambersburg Area Senior High School.

The Bamboo Building is on 17 acres next to the high school. It is a site where the district's administrative offices also sit. Once the warehouse is knocked down, it presents the district with a shortage of storage space, Vensel said.

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The district also is looking for ways it can consolidate some of its functions onto fewer properties. Besides 17 elementary schools and three secondary schools, the district owns large tracts in Greenvillage and Letterkenny Army Depot, plus smaller administrative, transportation and warehouse properties, according to a district inventory.

Some functions -- technology, maintenance, transportation and storage among them -- could be relocated to what Vensel called a district support facility, perhaps in leased warehouse space or in a building constructed by the district.

"We don't really need excess assets to manage," Vensel said. Whether it's an empty building or raw land, properties still have to be heated, mowed or otherwise maintained, he said.

The largest single property is the 78.12 acres that the district bought a few years ago for the site of a future secondary school. The one drawing perhaps the most interest, however, is among the smallest -- the 1.6-acre site of King Street Elementary School in downtown Chambersburg. The school is scheduled to close in January 2009.

"At this point, we know where we're building the high school," Vensel said. That will not be in Greenvillage because the school board decided to renovate and expand the 52-year-old Chambersburg Area Senior High School, a project budgeted at $73.8 million, rather than build a new school.

The King Street school is between the Coyle Free Library and the Old Jail headquarters of the Kittochtinny Historical Society, across from the

recently expanded King Street Church and a block from the Franklin County Courthouse. All of those institutions might have an interest in acquiring the school once it closes, Superintendent Joseph Padasak said at the Jan. 23 school board meeting.

"Based on what we do, it will affect planning for other institutions," board member David Sciamanna said at that meeting. "It might be good for the board to have a couple of people involved in that issue."

Board President Thomas Orndorf suggested a date be set for interested parties to submit their proposals for the school.

The students from King Street will join those from Mary B. Sharpe Elementary School, scheduled to close at the same time, and those from the former U.L. Gordy Elementary School in a yet-to-be-named school under construction off North Franklin Street. The students who attended U.L.

Gordy have been going to the new Fayetteville (Pa.) Elementary School, along with students from the former Duffield Elementary School, which closed last year.

A group already has shown interest in preserving the 100-year-old Mary B. Sharpe Elementary School, possibly as an education museum.

Chambersburg retained Duffield Elementary School, which now is used as an alternative school, run by Manito Inc., for students with behavioral and disciplinary problems.

The district has almost 57 acres deeded over to it from Letterkenny Army Depot. The land includes Kenny Gardens, an old housing complex. The district uses some of the property for other alternative education classes, and is in the process of turning over 10 acres to the Cumberland Valley

Animal Shelter for a new shelter.

The district eventually could have more than 200 acres of excess depot land deeded to it, Vensel said. The district can sell the property, but first would need to meet several conditions set by the U.S. Department of Defense when the agreement was signed several years ago, Vensel said.

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