Mechanicsburg Area School Board members were updated Tuesday night on several district building projects, including a proposed third construction phase at Elmwood Academy.
For the first time on Tuesday, the school board met on the recently completed second floor at the Kindergarten Academy, the new location of Mechanicsburg’s district offices. In early 2018, work began at the Kindergarten Academy to renovate the building and add a two-story classroom wing by the start of the 2019-20 school year. The project is nearly complete and will be ready in time for the new school year.
The Kindergarten Academy renovation is just one part of an overall district program design project now underway that’s based on the results of a feasibility study in 2015-16. That study focused mainly on the district’s elementary grades because those buildings were either close to or already exceeding capacity, resulting in a realignment of the district’s elementary grades.
When Elmwood Elementary School became Elmwood Academy for grades 4-5 at the start of the 2018-19 school year, the district’s remaining elementary schools were converted to accommodate grades 1-3.In 2016, Mechanicsburg also initiated a contract with DecisionInsite to update the district’s enrollment projections annually. Enrollment continues to grow and isn’t expected to stop anytime soon, according to latest projection figures. When Mechanicsburg schools open on Aug. 21, district enrollment is expected to reach “well in excess of 4,400 and maybe even 4,500,” superintendent Mark Leidy said on Tuesday. That’s a jump of around 700 students just over the past five years, he said.
“I’d rather be in a community (like ours) that’s vibrant and growing instead of being in one that’s stagnant,” he told the school board.
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In August 2017, the school board authorized architects to design renovations and expansions to Broad Street Elementary School, Northside Elementary School, Shepherdstown Elementary School and Upper Allen Elementary School. Construction began at Shepherdstown and Upper Allen this year and should be done by the start of the 2020-21 school year, district administrators said on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, work at Broad Street Elementary is tentatively scheduled to begin in spring 2020 with completion scheduled for the start of the 2021-22 school year. The Northside project is scheduled to begin in early 2021 and is expected to be done in time for the 2022-23 school year.
In September 2018, the school board approved contracts for the construction of a Wildcat Activity Center that’s now underway along side Mechanicsburg Area Senior High School. Initially, completion was expected around July for the 15,000-square foot building with a main gymnasium, an auxiliary gym, additional sports locker rooms, equipment storage areas, a concession stand and a lobby with restrooms for outside events at the school. However, unfavorable weather has slowed construction, which is now slated for completion in November, district business administrator Gregory Longwell said on Tuesday. Finally, district architects presented the school board with two possible options for a third phase of expanding the Elmwood building. The board authorized district architects in April to design an unexpected third construction phase at Elmwood Academy that would add a classroom wing to the district’s grade 4-5 center. Leidy introduced the proposal to board members in March, saying an enrollment peak at Elmwood “is coming is faster than we originally thought.”
One option under consideration for Elmwood would involve expanding the cafeteria and adding classrooms space, while the other option would also include relocating the school’s media center to include more room for small group instruction areas. Financing plans for the proposed options will be presented at a district finance/facilities meeting later this month, followed by a final vote by the school board in September, Longwell said.
“Something needs to be done,” Elmwood principal Andrew Bitz said of the proposed building expansion on Tuesday.
The newest construction proposal follows two recent projects at Elmwood. In 2018, interior renovations transformed the building from its previous status as a school for grades 1-5 to its current use as a district center for grades 4-5.