Initial design of Montour's new elementary school shows an entrance resembling a traditional, one-room schoolhouse -- a symbol of the goal to merge all the district's K-4 students into a single, modern building.
The school board on Sept. 27 approved submitting preliminary plans to the state Department of Education for building a $55 million elementary facility on the 110-acre high school campus on Clever Road in Robinson.
The vote was 8-0, with member Thomas Barclay absent.
The two-story, 155,000-square-foot building will consolidate three elementary schools, accommodating kindergarten through fourth grade plus a new preschool program.
Opening is scheduled for 2015-16.
Superintendent Donald Boyer said educational advantages of building the elementary school on the high school campus include easy extension of technology infrastructure and access to facilities such as the high school's planetarium and the athletic center's swimming pool.
"The high school site seems to make the most sense," Mr. Boyer said.
The elementary school design includes space for a new, half-day prekindergarten program, Mr. Boyer said.
The district also will establish a daycare center at the high school so that preschool children have access to a full day of programming, he said.
Mark Follen, a planner with Architectural Innovations LLC of Ross, said the school will be built on the sports fields located in a valley just south of the athletic center.
The site will be filled and leveled prior to construction, he said.
The softball and practice fields will be relocated next to the stadium, Mr. Boyer said.
Mr. Follen presented a preliminary design showing a two-story building with several dozen classrooms clustered by grade; a gym larger than 10,000 square feet; a cafeteria seating 365 people; a 3,600-square-foot media center; a band room; and energy-efficient building features.
Plans include sharing the high school's Clever Road driveway and building an additional parking lot.
The district and the architect will work out design details over the next year, Mr. Boyer said.
The building is designed around the educational concept of STEAM -- science, technology, engineering, arts and math, he said.
Mr. Boyer had planned to hand-deliver the elementary school proposal to the state education department Friday to meet a deadline for possible state reimbursement totaling about $2.5 million to $3.5 million.
Starting Monday, school building projects no longer were eligible for state subsidies because of Gov. Tom Corbett's moratorium on school construction funding.
Mr. Boyer said the project's estimated $55 million cost is on the high side and could end up lower.
According to a feasibility study completed by Architectural Innovations in April, construction of a new school at $42 million would cost about $8 to $9 million less than comprehensive renovations of the three elementary schools.
"The existing buildings are not in good shape," school board President Ron Smith said.
Gateway engineers previously tested three potential sites for the elementary school -- Forest Grove Elementary, the middle school campus and the high school campus. The Forest Grove site was found to be undermined, Mr. Smith said.
The school board voted 8-0 last Thursday to approve Gateway for about $35,000 more in surveying and related work on the high school campus.
Mr. Boyer said building on the high school campus will make operations more efficient by reducing the district's overall number of school sites to just the high school campus in Robinson and the David E. Williams Middle School site in Kennedy.
Robinson elementary schools Burkett and Forest Grove would be closed.
The district enrolls about 965 elementary students from Ingram, Kennedy, Pennsbury Village, Robinson and Thornburg.
A major factor in financing the new school will be a tax-increment financing agreement involving the school district, Robinson, and the Mall at Robinson, Mr. Boyer said.
He hoped settling a dispute over that agreement would free up about $1.6 million a year.
Mr. Boyer said with good planning and timing, "we stand a good chance of being able to do this [building project] without increasing taxes."
Andrea Iglar, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.