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Plum School Board Narrows Down Options for Elementary School Renovations

A new school, renovations and the possibility of closing a school still are on the table.

Plum school officials still are torn about what plan they want to follow in terms of bettering elementary school buildings in the district.

During a special facilities committee meeting on Tuesday, officials narrowed down options that had been presented to them from seven to three—the closure of Holiday Park Elementary is included in two of those options.

Superintendent Timothy Glasspool has said that enrollment in the district is the lowest it has been in 15 years—there are 3,999 students. About 13 "runs"—13 classes at each grade level—of about 23 students are needed to adequately accommodate all children in buildings.

Currently, the district has five elementary schools—Adlai Stevenson, Holiday Park, Regency Park, Center and the new George Pivik Elementary. There are 15 "runs" of students among those buildings. One run equals about 175 students.

Here are the options that remain on the table:

OPTION 1—Renovating Adlai Stevenson and Holiday Park at a cost of $12 million—each school would have three runs. Any renovation costs for Regency Park would be extra. Fifteen total runs of students would be available.

OPTION 3—Building a four-run school similar to the new George Pivik Elementary at the Adlai Stevenson site at a cost of $17 million plus the renovation cost of Regency Park. Holiday Park would close. However, officials aren't sure if they are able to legally use the site plans for the new Pivik school for the project. If they can't an entirely new school would have to be designed and built (no cost estimate was available for that option). There would be 13 runs of students in this option.

OPTION 5—Renovating Adlai Stevenson with an addition and closing Holiday Park—making the new facility a five-run school. That would cost $11 million plus the cost of renovating Regency Park. Regency would become a walking-only school. There would be 13 total runs in the district.

Note: Renovations of buildings include stripping the building to its structure and starting from scratch.

Board members Sal Colella, Kevin Dowdell and Joe Tommarello said they were in favor of building a brand new school.

"Is (renovating) a 30-year solution? No way in the world," Colella said. "When you remodel an old house, you still have an old house."

Colella said the difference between renovating buildings and building a new school is about $5 million.

Many parents in attendance said they didn't want their children to go to a school with 800 to 1,000 students (option 5).

"Elementary schools are already busy," said Kim Schmidt, whose children attend Holiday Park. "There's a lot going on at a school with 450 kids. If you combine them and add 300 more children, it gets crazier.

"I understand you need to run on a budget, but kids will get a better education in a smaller school."

Parents said having a larger school in the district could present safety and logistical problems in terms of day-to-day operations, and emotional problems for some students.

Parent Susan Matusky, who has children at Holiday Park, said combining Adlai and Holiday Park into one building could increase bullying and lower test scores because teachers would have to attend to more students.

"You need to take all this into consideration," she said. "I've seen it happen."

Others voiced concerns about staffing changes and the use of vacant school buildings.

Glasspool said that while those are very important matters, officials wouldn't be able to make any determinations about those factors until a they decide what route they want to take in terms of construction.

"Those conversations will come later, but believe me, they're important," he said.

Glasspool said redistricting the students—it will occur no matter what option is chosen—and building renovations are long overdue. He said the building systems for Adlai, Holiday Park and Regency Park all are past the expected life.

School board member Tom McGough assured residents that their opinions will be taken into consideration.

"Your voices have been heard," he said. "We're listening."

Glasspool said he the three options remaining on the table would be further discussed at the Oct. 15 facilities committee meeting. He said he hopes the district's demographic study is complete at that time.

A final decision must be made by October if officials want to break ground on the project they choose at the end of this school year. Glasspool said he doesn't think that's going to be the case. However, the project could start a few months later.

"It's a fair assumption there won't be a groundbreaking in June," he said.

A complete presentation with all the building options is located on the Plum Borough School District website.

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