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CASD seeks $90 million in stimulus money

January 28, 2009|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. -- The $819 billion federal stimulus package, officially known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, has yet to become law, but schools across the country are lining up for billions of dollars in education funding, including the Chambersburg Area School District, which would like about $90 million.

Superintendent Joseph Padasak said at Wednesday night's school board meeting that the district has identified two projects that would be eligible for funding through the stimulus package: The $60 million refurbishment of Chambersburg Area Middle School and Faust Junior High School, and construction of an academic wing for its students and other improvements to the Franklin County Career and Technology Center, which would cost about $30 million.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education recently sent a survey to all 501 school districts asking them to identify eligible new construction projects. Construction that is under way or budgeted for is not eligible.

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"It couldn't be any projects already in the pipeline," Padasak said before the meeting. However, much preliminary planning has been done for CAMS, Faust and the technology center, he said.

"In six months, we could be ready to go out to bid on those projects," Padasak said.

Once the district's $74 million renovation and expansion of Chambersburg Area Senior High School is completed, ninth-grade classes will be moved from Faust to the high school. CAMS and Faust will be converted to middle schools for grades six to eight.

The district also has pushed the other districts in the county to join in expanding the career center. Chambersburg plans to build an academic wing for the students it sends to the center so they will attend all year instead of one semester.

According to the Web site of a statewide awareness program called Pennsylvania's Promise for Children, the federal stimulus package includes $41 billion for schools and another $4.7 billion for preschool programs. Pennsylvania could receive more than $2.2 billion, including $576 million for school construction.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 244-188 on Wednesday in favor of the stimulus package, which still needs approval by the Senate and White House.

There will be a lot of competition for any money up for grabs in the stimulus package and Chambersburg's Business Manager Steve Dart said the district should not count on getting complete funding.

"The likelihood is you'd get a fraction of that in the best-case scenario," Dart said.

Other districts in Franklin County could also have designs on that $576 million in construction funds. Last year, voters in the Tuscarora School District voted down a referendum to spend about $35 million to renovate James Buchanan High School.

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