Boyertown Area School District is considering renovations and expansions to three schools as it decides how to handled population growth.
Boyertown Superintendent Dr. Dion Betts presented the school board with his solution to accommodate the additional 650 extra students that are predicted to attend Boyertown within the next decade.
The district had previously created four different options to manage the growth. Bett’s plan is a combination of all four and includes additions and renovations to the Boyertown Area High School, Junior High West, and Colebrookdale Elementary. The plan also includes construction of a new elementary building.
More than 1,000 residents responded to an online survey that asked them what they believe was the best option for Boyertown. Administrators said a majority of them agreed expansion was necessary.
The superintendent stressed that even though all options are being submitted, that doesn’t mean they are set in stone or that every one would be completed. “We could do all of them or we could do none of them,” Betts said, adding “I want to reiterate that we aren't recommending building or renovating anything. We are only committing to submitting a plan.”
The board is under a tight deadline to submit a plan quickly.
The state will reimburse up to 50% of the cost if plans are submitted before October 1. Officials said the plan allows for flexibility, adding that the board can further review or reject each project. “The important thing to remember is that you’re not committing to any projects” said EI Associates which conducted the feasibility study for the district.
The plan would have a total cost of $114 million if every project were completed. Administrative member David Szablowski said the projects would be funded by a modest tax increase for properties assessed at $100,000 or more. Szablowski added it would also be funded by new home construction.
Board member Ruth Dierolf was skeptical saying “Have you driven around town lately? Seeing all the vacant homes and closed businesses?”
Boyertown resident Linda Curry was concerned about building a new school over a projected increase, saying taxpayers shouldn’t “pay for something that isn’t here yet.”
Betts said even if a new school isn’t constructed, existing buildings need to be upgraded. He said if the schools were renovated with more eco-friendly technology they could cut energy costs by nearly 50% while curbing ever-increasing maintenance costs.
Board member Dr. Christman said “Additions to the high school are the top priority.” An expansion could be finished within two years and would include moving ninth grade into the high school, allowing sixth grade to move into middle school. These moves would alleviate overcrowding at the elementary schools which are already near capacity.
Betts said of the plan “We picked this option because it has a positive impact on space and students transportation time.”
The school board is scheduled to make a final decision September 11.