The West Shore School Board plans to vote Thursday on a proposal that would reconfigure the district’s feeder schools, but would leave its two high schools — Cedar Cliff and Red Land — in place.
On April 26, the district’s feasibility and facilities committee unanimously agreed to recommend the first of three reconfiguration options that have been under consideration by district officials since January.
The recommendation, commonly known as the “feeder school concept,” would change the district’s school structure from three to four levels, comprising seven elementary schools for K-grade 4, two intermediate schools for grades 5-6, two middle schools for grades 7-8, and two high schools for grades 9-12.
If approved by the school board, the proposed reconfiguration would be phased in over a period of several years beginning with the 2019-20 school year. Estimated cost of the total proposal is between $218.3 million and $246.7 million, according to a district news release.
An option previously under consideration by the committee would have merged Cedar Cliff High School and Red Land High School into one entity with one set of sports teams, but officials eliminated that proposal. The two high schools would remain open under the current proposal with around 1,100-1,400 each in grades 9-12.
In May 2015, the district partnered with RLPS Architects to conduct a feasibility study that examined the overall condition of the district’s buildings. Results indicated that several structures were in “overall poor conditions which do not meet our current needs and a shifting student population,” according to a district newsletter issued last month.
“We have aging infrastructure that needs attention. Our total enrollment of 7,800 is mostly steady, but it’s shifted,” Superintendent Todd Stoltz said. “Some parts, like the Arcona neighborhood in Lower Allen Township, are seeing growth, while other areas are declining in numbers.”
Study results were further refined by a related online survey conducted in November 2016 that obtained more than 2,000 responses from district students, staff, parents and community members.
“We’ve had lots of feedback from the public. Families told us why they chose to live here and raise their children in the West Shore School District. People feel a deep connection to their schools. Some folks worry about their kids getting lost in reconfigured schools that are ‘too large,’” Stoltz noted.
Stoltz said that the district’s goals for the proposed reconfiguration include updating climate control and security systems, accessibility, and technology in district buildings. The feeder school concept option also will add building spaces that address enrollment needs and ensure that subjects like music and art are provided with appropriate spaces. “In other words, we want to make sure that a subject like music would actually be held in a music room,” Stoltz said.
The final impetus behind the proposal would be creating flexible spaces for 21st century teaching and learning without the rigidity of lined rows of classroom seating.
The current option’s first proposed phase would take place in 2019-20 with a new property for grades 5-6, Crossroads Middle School converted into a grades 7-8 facility, open Rossmoyne Elementary School as a grades K-4 site, and close Lower Allen Elementary School and Fairview Elementary School. Total estimated cost is up to $48.1 million.
The second proposed phase in 2020-21 would convert Fairview Elementary School into a grade 7-8 facility, change Allen Middle School into a grades 5-6 site, and close New Cumberland Middle School. Estimated cost is up to $69.7 million.
The third proposed phase would involve Fishing Creek Elementary School opening as a K-4 site in 2021-22 for up to $23.3 million. Following this, Newberry Elementary School would open as a K-4 site in 2022-23 for up to $23.9 million.
In 2023-24, renovations would be completed at Cedar Cliff and Red Land for up to $37.4 million, followed by completed renovations at Crossroads and Red Mills Elementary School for up to $28 million in 2025-26.
Beyond 2016, renovations would be completed at the Highland, Washington Heights and Hillside buildings for up to $16.2 million.