Facilities upgrades under way at Manheim Central

By on March 25, 2015

Over the next three years Manheim Central School District will complete construction on three projects — a new district administration office and two new elementary schools.

Construction of the new two-story administration office, which adjoins the middle school at 261 White Oak Road, is under way, and the two elementary schools are being designed. One of the elementary schools will be constructed on East Gramby Street on the 4.66-acre site where the former middle school now sits. The other project will involve demolition of the existing Doe Run Elementary and construction of a new, larger school on that 20-acre site.

The projects are intricately interwoven. The district’s administration building is currently located at the former middle school site, and the new administration building is the lynch pin in the timeline for the elementary school projects. Business Manager Bryan Howett said that the new administration office is on schedule, and the anticipated relocation of the offices is slated for June.

“The plans already existed for the new administration office. It was part of the original plan for the middle school, but was and option in the bids. It was eliminated at that time due to budgetary concerns,” he said.

That decision turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

“If the offices had moved to the middle school, most likely the district would have sold the former middle school,’ said Superintendent Norman Hatten. “When the structural issues with Doe Run were uncovered late last year, we would have really had a tough time finding an alternate location for those students.”

The need to address the district elementary schools first was discussed by the school board facilities committee. Howett said that a feasibility study reviewed all the buildings in the district.

“We found out that we have some aging buildings, and the most immediate need was at the elementary level,” Howett said.

From there the committee and the school board embarked on a lengthy discussion of how to address that need. In November 2013, the board agreed to shutter both Stiegel Elementary School, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2014, and H.C. Burgard Elementary, which was originally constructed in 1962 with an addition and remodel in 1989. Both buildings are in Manheim Borough, and Hatten said that the borough has been working with the district on the projects.

At the same time, the board also decided to construct a new elementary school on the former middle school site, which is in the borough, and to do what Howett described as “light remodeling” to Doe Run, which is located at 281 Doe Run Road in Penn Township. He said the upgrades included a new HVAC system, repointing brickwork, and modifying the entrance to comply with current school security standards.

“Having two elementary schools, allows us to realize some operational efficiencies,” Howett said.

Manheim Central is in the midst of some major building upgrades. The administrative offices are currently located in the former middle school (above) while work on new administrative offices is underway (below). (Photos by Rochelle Shenk)

Manheim Central is in the midst of some major building upgrades. The administrative offices are currently located in the former middle school (above) while work on new administrative offices is underway (below). (Photos by Rochelle Shenk)

But those carefully laid plans changed Oct. 17. Howett said that the district’s architect, EI Associates, was reviewing Doe Run in order to prepare plans for the upgrades and found structural deficiencies.

“It was severe enough that the building would not have withstood a seismic event. With the safety of nearly 380 students and our staff in mind, we made the difficult decision to evacuate the building,” Hatten explained.

After seeking a second opinion, the school board revised its construction plans, and its cost estimates.

“We were able to flip flop the projects,” Hatten said. “Doe Run is a much larger site, so we’re now building a larger school there rather than trying to squeeze it in on the Gramby Street site.”

After the administration office is completed, the next project will be to raze and rebuild Doe Run Elementary. The existing school was built to house up to 500 students.

Howett said district officials had hoped some of the existing structure could be saved. However it was not cost-effective, and the entire structure will be razed and a new school to house up to 1,000 students will be constructed. The tentative timeframe for completion is Fall 2017.

The new Gramby Street School will be a two- or three-level facility to house up to 500 students. Hatten stressed that demolition will not begin on the former middle school site until the district is certain that the Doe Run timeline can be met. Current estimates place completion of the Gramby Street School in 2018.

Both buildings are being designed as “green buildings” and will be eligible for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. The buildings will incorporate energy efficient and green building techniques including the use of natural daylighting.

A portion of the Doe Run roof will be a “green” roof that will be covered with vegetation.

“The new Doe Run will be something the community can be proud of,” Hatten said.

The need to raze Doe Run also forced the district to go back to the drawing board on finances. Prior to October, Howett said that the projected cost for all three projects was about $37 million.

With the decision to raze Doe Run, cost for all three projects is estimated at $46.453 million; that figure includes ACE (Alternative and Clean Energy Program) grants of up to $2 million for each school for its green features. However, Howett said that the $2.6 million cost of the administration office will be paid from the district’s reserves, a move that was being considered even before the need to raze and rebuild Doe Run.

According to Howett, the projects as originally planned would have had a negligible impact on taxpayers when the operational savings is factored in.

Since the cost has increased, the new plan will have “a bit more” of an impact, even with the operational savings factored in.

“We’re currently working with our bond advisors on financing options,” he said. “There’s no denying that the cost has risen significantly, but with well-structured financing it will still have a minimal impact on taxpayers. We won’t know the final numbers until we receive bids for the schools,” he stressed.

Information about the building projects is posted on the district’s website: mcsd-dnn.mcbarons.manheimcentral.org.

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