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Response Mixed To Pottsgrove Improvements

LOWER POTTSGROVE PA – Proposals to renovate Ringing Rocks Elementary School, to add space to Pottsgrove High School, and to upgrade athletic fields across the Pottsgrove School District – introduced during a presentation Tuesday night (Nov. 11, 2008) – drew admiration from some members of the public and skepticism from others.

Gilbert Architects Project Manager Jessica Mailhot and Pottsgrove School District Director of Facilities Michael Katzenmoyer talk Tuesday night at Ringing Rocks Elementary School.

Gilbert Architects Project Manager Jessica Mailhot and Pottsgrove School District Director of Facilities Michael Katzenmoyer talk Tuesday night at Ringing Rocks Elementary School.

The range of reaction seemed to please the district Board of School Directors. Having been heavily criticized in years past for failing to seek public input on expansion or renovation plans, directors and administrators were generally satisfied to hear any feedback on what they agreed were only preliminary discussions.

Representatives from Gilbert Architects Inc. of Lancaster PA reviewed the district’s future buildings and facilities needs for about 50 visitors who attended the board’s two-hour meeting at the elementary school, 1401 Kauffman Rd., Pottstown. Gilbert was hired in February to conduct a study required by the state before the district can apply for construction funds.

Gilbert concludes that Ringing Rocks is in greatest need of a partial or complete overhaul or replacement, possibly as soon as 2011, at a potential cost of between $23 and $37 million. Several audience members agreed. “We’ve got people teaching in the hallways now,” said one, “all just smushed together. We need the room.” Added another: “Compared to the two other elementary schools, we’re missing a lot.”

A high school expansion also may be necessary by 2013, Gilbert believes, at a potential cost of about $14 million. It also says the district would benefit at any time by adding additional athletic fields, at a potential cost of about $2 million.

Audience member Dave Borzick of Randy Drive, Sanatoga, didn’t doubt improvements might be desirable. But given the worsening economy, “we want to stay on top of what we truly need and what we can really afford,” he cautioned board members. “We don’t want to be doing all this work and then find out the money’s not going to be there.”

Similar sentiments were voiced by others. “One thing this district can’t afford is another new school building,” said one. “I’d rather see money being spent toward schools rather than athletic fields,” offered another. “Your timing is really bad,” a third observed.

After analyzing census and state Education Department statistics, Gilbert expects the district faces only moderate population growth within the next 10 years, and considers its classroom capacity sufficient for several years. However, an increased number of births between 2000 and 2001 is likely to create the need for more high school classrooms by 2013, it says.

Although entirely safe and well-maintained, Gilbert Project Manager Rod Frey Jr. said Ringing Rocks’ heating, roofing, plumbing and windows are aging. The building also requires educational program space changes more immediately than any other district school, he said.

Editor’s note: This story was revised Thursday (Nov. 13, 2008, at 1:34 p.m.) with a photo and addition of a link to the district’s feasibility study webpage.

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