Lehigh Valley

Northampton Area School Board approves construction of new Lehigh Elementary School

NORTHAMPTON, Pa. - The Northampton Area School Board at its Monday meeting approved in an 8-0 vote construction of a new Lehigh Elementary School on the same site on which the current school sits. 

The existing Lehigh Elementary School and the students who study there will not be affected while the construction project proceeds.

The board had been presented with two options: either to renovate the existing school or to build a new school at the same site. The school is located at 800 Blue Mountain Drive in Walnutport.

Superintendent Joseph Kovalchik said before the vote that the renovation would cost $31.9 million, whereas the new school will cost $34.1 million.

Jean Rundle, who had served for 12 years as a school board member, said that if she were “sitting in one of those seats” she would vote for the new school. Rundle said that it would be better to not disrupt the students’ learning while the construction is going on, advising the board to not “disturb the children, keep them where they are.” 

Superintendent Kovalchik said before the vote that the district had been studying the issue for at least a year.

The current school can accommodate 520 students, while a newly constructed school could house up to 700 students, Kovalchik said.

Kovalchik said that the board had reserved money for a potential new elementary school throughout last year, so that enough revenue will be available for the first year of the project. Any tax increase in the 2018-19 school year would not be due to the project, Kovalchik said.

Board President David Gogel said before the vote that the over 90,000 square foot new building would be smaller than the current 102,000 square foot building and would come with reduced costs, including a lower price for heating.

Gogel said that the new building would feature a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system which would provide the district with lower long-term maintenance costs. 

The board also approved an agreement between the district and D’Huy Engineering for Resident Project Engineering Services for the design phase of the project. The agreement came with a price tag of $140,000.

The board also voted to allow the administration to negotiate a contract for architectural services for the new building. This includes the design and documentation of the school and site improvements as well as preparations of plans and submissions that are needed for various agency approvals. 

This would also include the development of alternate bids and oversight of the bidding and construction phases of the project.

In addition, the board approved a three-year service agreement with Solo Pest Control of Walnutport at an annual cost of $4,320.00. The agreement would run from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2020.

Board Vice-President Chuck Frantz was absent from Monday’s meeting.

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