Lehigh Valley

Nitschmann needs to be repaired or rebuilt, officials say

Nitschmann needs to be repaired or rebuilt, officials say

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Repair it or rip it down and rebuild it. Those are some of the options facing Nitschmann Middle School in Bethlehem.

District officials said something has to be done soon to fix the problems at the 87-year-old school.

"The HVAC system the heating and air condition is inadequate. In fact, we don't have air conditioning in most of the rooms," said Jacqueline Santanasto, the school's principal.

Nitschmann was built in 1925 and has had two major additions. If you go from one wing to another, you can feel the temperature change, so teachers use window units and heaters to constantly regulate the environment. There's only one problem.

"The noise factor makes it a little difficult for kids to hear, so we are asking them to speak up a lot," said teacher Mike O'Connel.

You will also find cramped spaces,  buckets catching rainwater and signs of deterioration all over the school.

There are about 200 fixed seats in the auditorium/band room. So, if the school wants to get all 900 students in one spot, things get pretty cramped.

The Bethlehem Area School District is looking at ways to fix Nitschmann's problems, ranging from renovating what they have to building anew, like it did with Broughal Elementary School.

Superintendent Joseph Roy said preliminary estimates for a new building run around $64 million, but Roy said the district is looking to cut the cost by an estimated $10 to $15 million by using reserve funds, borrowing as construction progresses and using future TIF money from the Sands Casino.

Either way, Nitschmann staff and students have learned to learn around the school's issues but look forward to the day when they don't have to.

School district officials are expected to review their options for Nitschmann at a meeting on Monday.

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