Consolidation of buildings a real possibility

Lorraine Mulfinger

BELLEFONTE — The best recommendation for building consolidation at Bellefonte is to combine two or more of its elementary schools into a new building.

The Bellefonte Area School District Board of School Directors discussed the future consolidation at its Tuesday, Sept. 12 meeting. There have been talks for a while about the building consolidation, recommendations of which came out of previous district facilities studies.

District Fiscal Director Ken Bean said the best consolidation scenario is to combine the Bellefonte and Benner elementary schools into a new school complex that will be constructed behind Bellefonte Area High School.

The second scenario, Bean said, would be to combine Bellefonte, Benner and Pleasant Gap elementary schools. The third scenario would be to combine all four elementary schools into one. Starting at the beginning of 2020, the district plans to engage the community in conversation about the future consolidation.

Bean said the cost is to be determined, based on the scope of the building and the costs involved with selling the buildings. Soft costs are to begin in 2024, with an anticipated completion date between 2026 and 2028. Bean explained the construction timeline will be based on when current bonds will run out.

It is also recommended that the district central office, currently located at 318 N. Allegheny St., be combined with the new elementary school building, Bean said.

There have been preliminary talks about future uses of Bellefonte Area Elementary School. According to Superintendent of Schools Michelle Saylor, there has been some interest expressed in the possibility of the building turning into apartments or a health center.

“I think the county could be interested, I think the borough itself could be interested,” Bean said. I think there’s a lot of uses for that building. The structure itself is fantastic.”

At Bellefonte Area Elementary School, there will be an elevator added for ADA compliance, in addition to ADA parking. Bean said the anticipated completion date is sometime during 2018. The anticipated cost of the project is $500,000.

Bean said the ADA compliance additions could help make the building more attractive to future interested buyers.

Also during the meeting, the board also looked at the future plans to bring Rogers Stadium at the high school campus up to ADA standards.

According to Bean, the project is anticipated to begin in 2018. He said that it could be ready for the 2019 football season.

The estimated cost for the entire ADA compliance project is approximately $2.6 million. Bean said that estimate includes soft costs of approximately $225,000 for phases one and two of the project.

To help fund the project, funds already accrued for the project will be used, in addition to between $1.5 and $2 million that could be reclassified from the Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System assigned fund balance. Bean said the downside would be that future school boards could lose the flexibility to manage rising district budget costs. The track and field facilities improvement project, whose scope is to be determined, will be funded through the district’s Capital Campaign fund balance.

In other business, the board is now back to nine members after the recent leave of former board member Daniel Miltenberger. Lorraine Mulfinger will serve the rest of Miltenberger’s four-year term, which began Dec. 1, 2015.

Mulfinger currently serves as director of the Strategic Interdisciplinary Research Office at Penn State. She previously served on the Bellefonte school board from 1995 to 2007.