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Support builds for new high school

Support has emerged for a plan that would see the Montour School District build a new high school and a new school to house seventh and eighth grades.

The plan — which would also see the David E. Williams Middle School changed to house fourth through eighth grades and the district’s three elementary schools reduced to kindergarten through third grade — carries a preliminary cost of $52.6 million and is the most expensive of three options being considered.

“This is our chance to do it and to do it right,” said Robinson resident Leslie Plack.

Dan Dancu, president of Ingraham Dancu Associates, said he will develop a year-by-year action plan and make a recommendation to the school board in late October or early November. The school board hired Dancu to prepare a 10-year master facilities plan for the district.

The final decision on what to do rests with the school board.

In two public meetings, the most recent held Tuesday, overwhelming public support was shown for replacing Montour High School. There is also apparent wide support for building a new school for seventh and eighth grades on the high school campus, in place of a widely opposed plan to build an elementary school there.

The scenario was developed at the first meeting in part from suggestions provided by Robinson resident Chuck Bartel. First called Scenario 3, it is becoming known as the Bartel Scenario.

“Everyone in the district is very supportive of a new high school. Our current facilities are in terrible shape,” said school board member Leslie Power. “Everybody benefits from a new high school.”

A new high school to house 1,300 students is estimated to cost about $30 million, while renovating the existing high school would cost about $27.2 million.

Dancu said the cost difference between renovation and new construction is so little because a new building would be “much more efficient in design and operation.”

A seventh- and eighth-grade building for 600 students will cost $20.2 million, according to figures provided by district architect Graves & McLean. Other options included building a new kindergarten-to-fifth-grade elementary school for 400 students for $12.5 million, or a school for 600 fourth- and fifth-grade students for $14.1 million.

Included in the cost is $2.6 million for an expansion of David E. Williams, now under way and expected to be finished in December. New offices for district administration, transportation and maintenance would be included in a new high school.

According to figures presented by architect Victor Graves, the Bartel Scenario would have a local annual cost of $2.5 million for 25 years based on a $40 million bond issue. It would take 1.47 mills to pay that cost, based on one mill generating about $1.7 million.

Dancu said how much a mill raises could change because of the residential and commercial development in the district, mainly in Robinson.

“You are in a pretty good position to increase your tax base,” he said.

Montour still has about $12.6 million from a 2001 bond issue that would also be spent on the project.

Graves said the estimates do not include costs for buying property, site development, extending utilities outside site boundaries and measures to cope with mines under parts of the high school campus.

Also not included are the costs to upgrade Burkett, Forest Grove and Ingram elementary schools. The operating costs are also not yet known.

“A clear decision can not be made until the full analysis is done,” Power said.

Board member Charlie Snowden said he was not surprised residents were supporting the most expensive option. He said the favored plan makes the most sense.

“It would really have us set for the next 30 years,” he said.


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