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Chambersburg to consider combining school facilities

February 16, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Three years from now, the Chambersburg Area School District will be losing 100,000 square feet of storage space to the high school renovation project, prompting the school board to authorize a study of support facilities.

Over the next five months, the administration will look at its more than two dozen properties on 422 acres to determine if it makes sense to consolidate supporting functions ranging from maintenance and transportation to technology and food service. The study of support facilities and functions also will examine whether it will be better to build, rebuild, lease or buy the necessary space.

The "Bamboo Building," a warehouse across the street from Chambersburg Area Senior High School, will be torn down to make room for additional parking when the high school is expanded. Business Manager Rick Vensel said the loss of that storage space is the reason for the study.

Most of what the district owns are school properties, Vensel told the board Wednesday, but it also owns several buildings used to support the schools and a lot of vacant land. Additionally, King Street and Mary B. Sharpe elementary schools will close in 2009.

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The former Stevens Elementary School houses the maintenance and food service offices, and a former Coke bottling plant is used for storage, Vensel said. The district has a transportation facility on Cider Press Road, he said.

Vacant land includes 78 acres in Greenvillage, Pa., that the district bought for a new high school before deciding to renovate the high school. It also owns about 56 acres of land that once was part of Letterkenny Army Depot and could be deeded nearly 150 acres more in the future, Vensel told the board.

Selling off properties could help pay for what Vensel called a "district support facility." The district will have to figure out how to pay for the building without a tax increase that could trigger a voter referendum under Pennsylvania's Act 1 school tax reform law, which allows exemptions for school construction, but not for nonacademic buildings, he said.

Superintendent Joseph Padasak said he will meet next week with "all the major parties" interested in the King Street building. Bernice Crouse, executive director of the Franklin County Library System, has expressed an interest in obtaining the building, which is next door to the Coyle Free Library.

School buildings are difficult to convert to other uses, but warehouse spaces are adaptable to a variety of uses, Vensel said.

While school construction runs about $150 per square foot, a warehouse facility designed to the district's needs would cost perhaps $90 per square foot, Padasak said. Leased space could be had for much less, he said.

The study is due to be completed by July 1, Vensel said.

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