POTTSTOWN PA – Architects and other building consultants will be sought out by the Pottsgrove School District in coming months so the Board of School Directors can explore the feasibility of what could amount to a complete, multi-million-dollar renovation of its high school, 1301 Kauffman Rd.
Directors, during their meeting Tuesday (Dec. 4, 2012), did not commit to a complete overhaul of the building, and would not estimate how much they might be willing to spend on such a project. One board member openly worried the tax-paying public would not support extensive reconstruction.
Administrators, however, during a lengthy “virtual tour” of the high school, convinced directors there were legitimate future building needs to be considered. The board, which unanimously agreed to look into a feasibility study, also took comfort in a scenario described by Business Administrator David Nester under which the district might be able to spend $30 million or more for renovations without raising existing tax rates.
Directors Patricia Grimm and Jodi Adams were absent from the meeting and did not join in the consensus.
The district has already put into motion plans for $9 million in repairs on what directors earlier acknowledged were immediate, almost emergency-like, problems at Pottsgrove High School. Its air conditioning chillers, on the verge of failing, will be replaced; so will portions of its roof. Other structural components will be fixed.
The opportunity to tackle those issues prompted the administration to think more expansively, Acting Superintendent Shellie Feola said. Her tour outlined proposals to
- Reconfigure the library to add space and a classroom;
- Create a series of revamped science classrooms and labs that would be part of a higher-level educational offering;
- Provide new security and safety in the entrance vestibule;
- Replace bleachers and hardwood flooring in the gym;
- Add seating in the auditorium; and
- Renovate the cafeteria.
Board President Scott Fulmer slowly shook his head after seeing the presentation. “I cannot support adding to the footprint of the building,” he said, and despite what he called “significant community support” for reconstruction last year of Ringing Rocks Elementary School, doubted there was “community support for a $30 million project.”
Nester explained, though, that the $30 million figure was presented for purposes only. “We don’t know what a full project might look like. We don’t what it might cost,” he said.
He offered assurances, however, that such a project could be affordable. District indebtedness will begin declining in 2016, little more than three years away, Nester noted, and Pottsgrove could be debt-free by 2023. By simply maintaining its current level of debt, the repayment of which is built into the tax rate already imposed on real estate within the district, Nester contended Pottsgrove could spend millions without raising taxes a penny more.
He also conceded that with future borrowing the district would be unlikely to decrease tax rates or provide a tax refund to property owners.
Board member Nancy Landes was among those urging her colleagues to proceed with the study. “It’s worth looking at as long as it gives us lots of options,” she said.
Related (to the Pottsgrove Board of School Directors’ meeting of Dec. 4):