An underused cafeteria could be converted into space for an expanded health occupations curriculum at the Cumberland-Perry Area Vocational Technical School.
While half of the project’s estimated $1.25 million cost would be drawn from reserves, the other half may be paid for over the next two budget years by the 13 school districts that send students to the school, said Justin Bruhn, administrative director of the school in Silver Spring Township.
The 13 districts include seven in Cumberland County: Big Spring, Camp Hill, Cumberland Valley, East Pennsboro, Mechanicsburg, South Middleton and West Shore. Other districts are Northern York, Upper Adams, Greenwood, Newport, Susquenita and West Perry.
Depending on their percentage of student enrollment, each district appoints one to three school board members to serve as delegates to the Cumberland-Perry joint operating committee, Bruhn said. One of the committee’s tasks is to review and approve a draft budget to forward to districts for final approval.
Committee members in December approved a draft 2020-21 budget that includes an increase in the annual contribution that the districts make to Cumberland-Perry. Part of the increase is due to the proposal to convert the cafeteria into classroom space, Bruhn said. The annual contribution is based on the five-year average daily membership of students from each district, he said.
Half of $1.25 million is about $625,000. The plan is to split that expense further in half by having the districts pay $312,500 in fiscal year 2020-21 and $312,500 in fiscal year 2021-22.
Two-thirds of the school boards must approve the Cumberland-Perry budget. In the past, boards have reviewed and approved the vocational school’s budget and contribution in February or March, Bruhn said. “We don’t dictate to them what they are going to do. We were formed by a consortium.”
Though it accepted its first students in 1970, Cumberland-Perry traces its origins to 1967 when the original sending districts formed the consortium through Articles of Agreement that included the incorporation of an authority that had the ability to borrow money for land acquisition and school construction, Bruhn said. “Authorities expire after 50 years.”
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School administrators are working with committee members to identify what long-term capital improvement projects may be needed to maintain and update the Cumberland-Perry building, Bruhn said. “We are in the very early stages. There are several steps in the process.”
In conjunction with that, Cumberland-Perry officials must also decide how to finance the costs of the long-term projects based on program needs and priorities, he said. One option under review is to reestablish the authority so that Cumberland-Perry could once again borrow money by floating bonds.
One goal of the review is to help the districts factor into their annual budgets the anticipated costs of debt service to offset the principle and interest payments on the financing, Bruhn said.
For now, the conversion of the cafeteria into classroom space is the only project ready to go. If two-thirds of the school boards approve the budget, the design work could be completed in time to release bid specifications in the fall, Bruhn said. The goal is to complete the project during summer 2021 for an expanded curriculum starting that fall.
Cumberland-Perry currently offers 100 students a two-teacher nurse assisting program, Bruhn said. The two classrooms and one lab are not clustered together but are arranged around an angle in the school hallways.
The proposed project would cluster three classrooms with three teachers in front of one shared lab space that would be designed for flexible use, allowing the school to change its health occupations curriculum in response to changes in the health care industry.
The resulting vacancy will be converted to a dental assisting classroom and lab that could be clustered along the same hallway instead of located along a corner. There are plans to expand the program space for the electrical construction and maintenance program and to provide space for resource, learning support and adult education programs.
The current nurse assisting program will expand from 100 to 150 students and will broaden its curriculum to include training and coursework in a number of health occupations including pharmacy technician, EKG technician, surgical technician, radiology, medical coding and phlebotomy.
The health care industry is the second largest private employment sector in Cumberland County and the largest in Pennsylvania, Bruhn said. Cumberland Area Economic Development Corp. has prioritized workforce development in health care as a vital component to meet current and future employment demands, he said.
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