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School District Expansion Plans Advance

Monday night, Lower Merion's Board of School Directors authorized administration to seek bids for three of four schools included in the $24 million project.

Lower Merion School District's proposed $24 million school district expansion plan took another step forward Monday night when the Board of School Directors authorized administration to seek bids for three of the four planned school expansion projects.

Lower Merion began looking an options for expansion following an enrollment study in June that projected the district's population would exceed its capacity as early as the 2013-14 school year for some district elementary schools.

Monday night, the board unanimously voted to authorize Gilbert Architects Inc. to proceed with the designs for Gladwyne Elementary School, Penn Valley Elementary School, Bala Cynwyd Middle School and Welsh Valley Middle School additions. The board also authorized the district to seek bids for Gladwyne, Penn Valley and Bala Cynwyd.

Plans for the elementary schools and Bala Cynwyd MS have not changed in the past few weeks—with four-classroom additions recommended for both elementary schools and a minor addition proposed at Bala Cynwyd—but a new configuration is proposed for Welsh Valley, as introduced at the Jan. 14 school board meeting.

That plan would place the 12-classroom school addition abutting the gymnasium and effectively linking the school campus, rather than sitting at the base of the school's multi-building campus (see the attached diagram in the gallery above).

The alternative Welsh Valley plan would cost roughly $15,549,898, compared to the original plan's $15,325,111, but would also have the advantage of helping form a more secure school campus, Superintendent Christopher McGinley said.

The following table of updated costs was provided by Director of Operations Pat Guinnane:

Former Current Change Gladwyne ES $2,793,373 $3,003,823 $210,450 Penn Valley ES $3,223,743 $3,013,293 ($210,450) Bala Cynwyd MS $2,027,335 $2,590,898 $563,563 Welsh Valley MS $16,800,483 $15,325,111 ($1,475,372) Welsh Valley Alternate $15,549,898 ($1,250,585) Total $24,844,934 $23,933,125 ($911,809) Total w/ WV Alternate $24,157,912 ($687,022)

Guinnane also provided a table detailing the tax impact of the proposed $24 million project, based on a home assessed at $250,000.

Year Total Tax Impact Tax Bill % Increase Per Year 2012-13 $5,871.03 1.99% 2013-14 $81.40 $5,952.43 1.39% 2014-15 $144.80 $6,015.83 1.07% 2015-16 $208.21 $6,079.23 1.05% 2016-17 $271.61 $6,142.63 1.04% 2017-18 $335.01 $6,206.04 1.03%

While the board voted unanimously to move forward with the expansion projects, board member Jerry Novick also made a motion to simultaneously continue researching the possibility of using modular classrooms at Gladwyne and Penn Valley.

Novick noted that using modular units for the two schools would cost roughly a third of what permanent expansions at the school would cost, and that saving multiple millions of dollars on a renovation project was something to be considered seriously.

Novick's motion, while seconded by Gary Friedlander, was ultimately defeated 7-2. Several board members stated that they believed the district had already shown why modular classrooms at the elementary schools wouldn't be feasible, citing negative educational impacts, the cost of upkeeping modular classrooms, and parental support for permanent additions.

When bids are received, McGinley said, board members will have the opportunity to vote individually on stages of the expansion plans. If bids are too high, they can also be rejected.

Read more on Lower Merion's proposed expansion:

  • School District Expansion Decisions Needed 'Soon' (Jan. 15, 2013)
  • Gladwyne Elementary Getting 4 Modular Classrooms in 2013-14 (Dec. 18, 2012)
  • (Dec. 11, 2012)
  • Gladwyne Residents Press for Reason Behind School-Expansion Project (Nov. 29, 2012)
  • $29.4 Million School Renovation Project Could Begin This Spring (Oct. 29, 2012)
  • (Sept. 26, 2012)

See the Jan. 14 presentation and diagrams in the gallery above, and check back for the Jan. 28 presentation.

Regina Brown January 29, 2013 at 01:14 PM
I am pleased to see that this School Board did not 'rubber stamp' the Administration's plans, instead they worked to reduce the cost significantly by $8 M from the original plans and come up with creative solutions - like modulars at WVMS instead of renovating the St. Justin building (that would likely be demolished anyway and is far away from the rest of the buildings). Likewise, they ensured that community voices were heard - the current WVMS plan was proposed by parents, not the District, as a win-win in that it helps to correct a bad, disjointed design. A refreshing change from previous Boards, who seemed to be nothing more than figureheads for the District Administration.

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