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ARMSTRONG: School directors vote to build new high school

by HEATHER ROTH on March 13, 2012 2:15 AM

FORD CITY -- After three months of talking about plans and options, the Armstrong School District Board of School Directors voted Monday to ask the architects to pursue plans for a new high school for the Kittanning and Ford City attendance areas.

Director Royce Smeltzer was the only dissenting vote.

The plan calls for a new seventh-through-12th-grade high school for around 1,725 students -- or 1,775 by state planning formulas. It would draw from Kittanning and Ford City junior and senior high schools, as well as students in Kittanning and Rayburn townships. Preliminary estimates show a cost of $55.6 million, with savings in staffing of around $16.42 million over five years.

The cost estimates do not include athletic fields, at around $4 million, or site acquisition. But board President Joe Close said two different land owners have offered parcels of 66 acres and 68 acres, free of charge.

Brian Hayes and John Hummel of L.R. Kimball said that if everything proceeded according to plan, the new school would be ready for occupation by September of 2015.

Several people spoke against the plan. Adam Grafton said the board had a plan to build a new high school since the beginning.

"In no way was the public involved," he said. "The 'clean white board' was a charade. … A decision had already been made."

Grafton said the new school fails to treat all areas and students equally.

And Todd Gladysiewski spoke out against closing Ford City Junior-Senior High School.

"Why are we doing it? I don't understand," he said. "Ford City's fine. I feel it's strong -- it used to be a bomb shelter." He said busing costs would rise, since currently students can walk to Kittanning, Ford City and Elderton high schools. He raised concerns about athletics, about becoming a Quad-A school and the cost to buy new uniforms for every sport.

Mark Wasilko, a student board representative from Kittanning, countered that new uniforms are always needed, new school or not, and that Ford City is an old building.

It was strong enough to be a bomb shelter, he said, "but the fact is, it was around during World War II."

The board also allowed an extended period of time for people to ask questions of the architects, ranging from cost estimates to design plans to contingency plans built into the contract.

As part of directing the architects to proceed with the design of the new school, the board approved amendments to contracts with L.R. Kimball and Reynolds Construction Management. Close said after the meeting that Kimball agreed to a 0.2 percent reduction in the rate, from 6 percent of the project cost to 5.8 percent.

The board also voted Monday to officially set a public hearing concerning the possible closure of Elderton Junior-Senior High School and Kittanning Township Elementary School. That meeting will be at 7 p.m. March 26 at Lenape Elementary School. Residents may reserve a time to speak or sign up at the meeting.

The board also voted to table a resolution stating that the board would not oppose efforts of Plumcreek Township, South Bend Township and Elderton Borough to explore secession. Solicitor John Smart said that the resolution was meaningless, because those areas have the right to explore secession regardless of the board's decision. Directors Smeltzer and Stan Berdell voted against the motion to table.

In other business, the board voted to:

  • Approve an overnight field trip for West Shamokin Junior-Senior High School students to Baltimore; donate $3,600 in a cash match to ARIN's Pregnant and Parenting Teen program; approve student transfer requests and two student adjudications; accept agreements with Apollo-Ridge, Freeport and Leechburg school districts for special education and educational services; operate a summer school program; extend school-based extended school year services to students in the autistic support program; and approve a nonresident pupil waiver of tuition fee.
  • Authorize a rental agreement with Pitney Bowes for new equipment; and approve a transfer of equipment for Armstrong students from Armstrong County Memorial Hospital. The equipment was purchased through Healthy Armstrong grant funds.
  • Approve an end user agreement with Emerald Data Solutions for BoardDocs; approve the transportation data review service proposal from ARIN Intermediate Unit 28; request bids for the sale of vehicles; use J Dunmire Auction Service for the auction at the Shannock Valley Warehouse, at a fee of 25 percent of total proceeds; and request bids to install a drainage system at Ford City Junior-Senior High School's baseball field.
  • Amend a policy and change the title to a policy for curriculum maps for planned instruction; and set the 2012-2013 school calendar. The first day of school will be Aug. 22.
  • Approve the ARIN IU 28 general operating budget; and accept Sara Yassem's resignation as school director and declare the vacancy. The district will accept applications from interested citizens who reside in Region III.
  • Accept the resignation of Mary Kathryn Koma, secretary at West Shamokin Junior-Senior High School; Eric Brandenburg, director of business affairs at the administration building, Michael Cornetti, baseball assistant at West Shamokin Junior-Senior High School; Megan Krukar, girls' junior high volleyball assistant at West Shamokin Junior-Senior High School; and Richard Nelson, baseball first assistant at West Shamokin Junior-Senior High School.
  • Recall Christopher Myers and Luke Wayne Johns to full employment as custodians at the Elderton Complex.
  • Approve the following supplemental contracts: at West Shamokin Junior-Senior High School, Michael Cornetti, baseball first assistant, $2,317; Aaron Seyler, baseball assistant, $1,783; Steffani Huff, girls' volleyball assistant, junior high, $1,430; and at Elderton Elementary School: William Nelson, $281.82, and Elaine Kerr, $180, both vocal concert.
  • Hire Jon Fair as coordinator of child accounting, safe schools and transportation; and Charles Shoop as acting principal at Dayton Elementary School.

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