Traffic, safety and other concerns headed public comments at a hearing Tuesday night for proposed additions and renovations to the Kindergarten Academy in the Mechanicsburg Area School District.
The project involves renovations and the addition of a classroom wing to the 55-year-old building on Filbert Street to accommodate steadily growing enrollment in the district. A second floor built over the new classroom wing would serve as the new location of the district’s administration offices.
The administration offices currently sit on the second floor of the Elmwood Elementary School, but the district plans to convert that building from a grades-one-through-five facility to a district center for grades four and five.
Project engineer J. Brian Haines of Crabtree, Rohrbaugh and Associates said on Tuesday that his firm is “halfway through the design phase” for the Kindergarten Academy project. The school board is expected to approve contractor bids in early 2018, with construction anticipated to begin in mid-March. Building occupancy is proposed for fall 2019.
During a comment period Tuesday, resident Gayle Elwell said she would like to see two-way parking eliminated on Norway Street, which is mapped as a bus thoroughfare for the Kindergarten Academy before and after each school day. Elwell said she lives at the intersection of Norway Street and Somerset Drive, which receives a brunt of the school’s traffic.
Haines said such matters remain under consideration because “a traffic study is going on as we speak.”
Elwell also said that she was glad that the district planned to remove existing ball fields behind the Kindergarten Academy. Resident Phyllis Voradi, however, said she was “disappointed” with the decision to remove the playing fields that are located “right behind” her home. Karen Simmons, of Filbert Street, asked why a play area bordering Alison Avenue that was included in the original plan has since been removed.
Haines said the play area was re-designated as two basins for storm water runoff, a concern of resident Kristin Wierman. Another storm water basin will be located underneath a parking lot. The district also is working with the borough on a possible storm water retention area in front of the school.
J.R. Zeigler, who said he is a “parent within walking distance,” expressed concern about walking his children to school and having a suitable place to wait. “There seems to be nowhere to walk in the school with the new plan. There is a large population of mingling people out there that you don’t cover with this,” Zeigler said.
Haines said “all traditional paths” will remain around the school and that ample waiting space will be provided at the walkers’ entrance. Large concrete balls similar to those outside Target stores are proposed for the school’s entrance areas that would protect children from passing traffic
The hearing booklet listed a maximum cost of $17,048,904 for the entire project, with just over $10 million of that allotted for new construction. The remainder is expected to go toward renovations, site work, financing and other related costs.
On Oct. 3, the school board authorized the issue of a 25-year general obligation bond, series of 2017, in the amount of $9,930,000 with an average interest rate of 3.04 percent. The funds are intended to finance a portion of the Kindergarten Academy project, with plans to finance additional money later.
Haines said that planned renovations and additions will bring the school up to “new modern (building) codes” and make the building totally ADA accessible with all new surfaces. “It will look like a new building.”