By: Adrienne Nolt
The school board considered new renovation plans for the Elizabethtown Area School District at the board meeting on February 26. If approved, Mill Road Elementary School would be closed and Rheems Elementary School, the Middle School, and the High School would be renovated.
This plan would reassign grade levels within the district in order to eliminate the need for Mill Road without expanding Rheems. Elementary schools would house only kindergarten through second grade. Third grade, which is currently in the elementary schools, would move to Bear Creek School with fourth and fifth grade. Sixth graders would move into the Middle School complex, and High School grades would not be affected.
Fidevia, the construction company, suggested that the Middle School basement be refurbished to accommodate sixth grade. Currently, the basement level contains gym equipment, a rifle range, and the technology center, which would all need to be relocated to the High School, increasing the need to reorganize classrooms throughout the building to accommodate the additional students.
Though this plan is less expensive than other proposals, Fidevia has construction concerns about the basement level of the Middle School. This area has never been used for classroom purposes and would require significant overhaul. It would also be difficult to bring natural lighting into the classrooms, and the elevator would need to be adjusted to include the new level. As a result, the current predicted cost of the basement renovation is $300 per square foot, a much higher estimate than for the proposed elementary renovations.
The school board expressed support for the proposal. Dr. Balliet, in agreement with most of the board, said she “would rather spend dollars on kids and programs than debt service,” making this low cost option ideal. She also noted that grade level reassignment would allow for the development of new kindergarten programs that better fit parents’ needs.
If approved, Fidevia hopes to have the Middle School ready for the beginning of the 2021/2022 school year, when Rheems will begin renovations.