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High school renovations could be scaled back

June 21, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

MERCERSBURG, Pa. -- The Tuscarora School Board will receive more information Monday night from the architect designing $17 million in renovations for James Buchanan High School.

Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates of Mechanicsburg, Pa., has been asked to scale back the original renovation plans, which overwhelmingly were rejected by voters in September 2008.

In response to that vote, the district formed a committee of community members who disliked the $35 million price tag, but agreed that things like mechanical systems and security need upgrades.

"That's who we actively sought out," said Principal Rodney Benedick, who worked with that committee.

Benedick described great cooperation among committee members, whose work wrapped up when the school board selected a plan in April. District officials hope to solicit bids from contractors this October.

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"It's not nearly as comprehensive (as the 2008 plan), but it's going to fix what's here," Benedick said, saying no space will be added to the 37-year-old school.

Jane Rice, president of the school board, said uses of existing space will change slightly to create a few more classrooms.

"It takes care of the water, heating and internal structure needs," she said, adding that the school board was "paying attention to the vote."

A "Fix JB Sports" group of parents, grandparents, coaches and teachers has formed to take on many of the athletic facilities upgrades dropped when the renovations' budget was slashed in half. That nonprofit organization is working with a professional fundraiser to estimate how much money can be raised in the rural community.

The scaled-back renovation costs mean the district won't need to send a proposal to voters again, Benedick said. Instead, the project should be able to be kept within a property tax increase index set by the state each year, he said.

In the meantime, the district is using a savings account to tackle projects like pool plumbing, water pipes and asbestos removal.

"That's all separate from this more comprehensive project," Benedick said.

"I think we're doing appropriate things with the $17 million proposal. It's a good time to be doing construction because of the economy," Rice said.

The school board will meet starting at 7 p.m. in James Buchanan Middle School's distance learning lab.

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