Parkland School District in South Whitehall Twp., Lehigh Co., faces millions of dollars in expenses to upgrade its buildings and make other district-wide improvements to transportation and technology.
All 11 schools in the district need work, according to a feasibility study presented to the school board Tuesday night by USA Architects, which designed Parkland’s Jaindl Elementary School.
The district is required to update its feasibility study every five years. The last study was completed in 2007.
More than $5.23 million -- the largest single cost -- is needed for a major renovation of Kratzer Elementary School, which was built in 1964 and last renovated in 1991.
Another multi-million-dollar project is recommended for Orefield Middle School, where improvements will cost an estimated $4.19 million.
Other buildings and estimated costs are:
• Parkway Manor Elementary, $1.23 million.
• Fogelsville Elementary, $1.02 million.
• Springhouse Middle School, $925,000.
• Schnecksville Elementary, $848,880.
• Kernsville Elementary, $829,000.
• Parkland High School, $805,000.
• Cetronia Elementary, $711,345.
• Ironton Elementary, $399,525.
• District administration building, $358,875.
• Jaindl Elementary, $101,500.
In addition to building improvements, the feasibility study also touches on operational needs for the district.
• $5.8 million for technology infrastructure and computer purchases, including a new phone system.
• $1.5 million for bus purchases.Twenty-two of Parkland’s buses will be 15 years old next year.
• $1.21 million for security upgrades, including keyless entry systems and more surveillance cameras.
The district estimates the total cost to do all the priority work in the feasibility study at $24 million.
“There is nothing extravagant about our recommendations,” said Parkland Superintendent Richard Sniscak in a news release distributed at the board meeting. “All items illustrate our commitment to provide a safe, productive atmosphere for our students and staff.”
Asked how $24 million in expenses will impact school taxes for Parkland residents, Sniscak said the district’s financial team will report to the board next month on the impact of borrowing that money over the next several years.
The news release states “the increase in debt service will amount to approximately a .52 millage increase over the life of the borrowing period, based on current interest rate estimates.”
Sniscak said the work must be done to prevent deterioration of Parkland’s facilities. He said the district will be looking at the feasibility study in the coming weeks and months as it hones in on what it can afford to do to maintain its facilities.
Board vice president Robert Cohen said board members got two-inch-thick documents about the feasibility study, which contain more projects than the presentation made at the board meeting, and that “eventually our buildings and grounds committee will look this over with a fine-tooth comb.”
Sniscak told the board the $24 million in projects identified at the meeting are top priority needs determined by the administration.
Cohen told the architects: “You job is to tell us what you think needs to happen. Our job is to try to balance that out. Do we need a teacher or do we need a roof?”
The study’s $24 million in priority projects does not include the former Troxell school building, now used for administrative offices. “That building is in dire need of all major systems,” said Paul Swartz of USA Architects. He estimated it needs $10 million in work and the district might have to consider razing it.
Kratzer Elementary is a priority because it requires the most work, said USA officials. The district reports the school’s heating, exhaust and air conditioning equipment has passed the end of its expected 20-year-life, plumbing equipment also is outdated, electric water heaters are inefficient and other electrical systems need to be upgraded or replaced.
Recommendations for improvements at the high school include replacing some sidewalks, refurbishing the pool and replacing some sections of the roof.
Some schools must make improvements to meet codes and requirements, including those of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. “All your buildings should be accessible as of this past March,” said James Petro of USA Architects.
Energy assessments, which ultimately should lead to savings on energy costs by determining needed improvements, are proposed for most of the buildings.
The architects propose doing the projects over two years, with the first round of construction – probably including Kratzer -- beginning in May 2013. Because the Kratzer project is expansive, that work still may be underway when school resumes the end of next summer. They anticipate all the projects will be completed by December 2014.
In another matter, at the end of the meeting some board members praised emergency response teams and Parkland administrators for their handling of the highly-publicized incident at the high school on the evening of Sept. 14, which turned out to be a false alarm.
Speaking as a parent with two children in the district, board member Mark Hanichak said: “I want to thank the entire administration for handling it the way they did.”
Board president Jayne Bartlett congratulated administrators “for doing such an outstanding job to keep everyone safe.”