With a "very significant facilities issue" predicted following an enrollment study conducted in May and enrollment accelerating, Lower Merion School District has begun formulating plans to expand district facilities. Monday night’s Board of School Directors meeting included the presentation of some conceptual plans for expanding four district schools.
The plans, presented by Gilbert Architects, target Gladwyne Elementary, Penn Valley Elementary, Bala Cynwyd Middle School and Welsh Valley Middle School, and total roughly $29.4 million.
LMSD Superintendent Chris McGinley stated that the plans were preliminary and the district is in no way tied to them.
However, the plans act as a "placeholder," said Danielle Hoffer, vice president of Gilbert Architects, which developed the plans. On Oct. 1, a one-year moratorium will begin on submissions to PlanCon, a governmental program that may reimburse the district for some costs associated with the expansion. The district wants to submit preliminary plans before the deadline.
Hoffer presented the following plans for district schools:
- Gladwyne: Second story four-classroom addition, renovations including six modular classrooms to be used during the construction period
- Penn Valley: Four-classroom addition at the end of the fifth-grade wing, and other renovations to accommodate projected enrollment
- Bala Cynwyd MS: Convert existing spaces to accommodate projected enrollment needs, including converting a locker room into two classrooms, converting the existing auxiliary gym into classrooms, and adding small additions for music department storage and gym storage
- Welsh Valley MS: Two-story addition to building, adding 16 classrooms; other renovations include a secure new vestibule and a fenced-in campus
The proposed Welsh Valley renovations are the heftiest, estimated at $18.2 million. Based on these plans, Hoffer said, the district could expect a reimbursement of about $650,000 for the Welsh Valley project.
Hoffer said that Gilbert Architects had considered a variety of uses for St. Justin Martyr Church, which the district recently purchased for $2.5 million.
The firm came to the conclusion, however, that renovating the church for use as a school would be more costly than renovating existing school buildings. One option under discussion is demolishing the existing church building and rectory and using the site for multi-purpose fields and associated parking, Hoffer said.
The plans, Board Vice President Melissa Gilbert reiterated, are the maximum the board is considering; due to the nature of the reimbursement, the district can reduce the size of the plans, but it can't increase them.
View more details on the expansion plans in the photo gallery above.
What do you think about these plans for Lower Merion schools? Tell us in the comments.