The West York Area school board will need to decide if saving money now is worth the risk of running out of classroom space in a few years at Wallace Elementary School.

Construction bids received for the project last week totaled $12,047,221. That's about $51,000 more than the expected bid, which board members said was less than half a percent from the original estimate.

The board's main decision is whether to drop classrooms from the bid or keep the originally planned 26 rooms.

The board could choose to deduct two, four or six classrooms from Wallace to save money.

If all of the classrooms are built, some could initially be left vacant because there are only a combined 22 classrooms in use for the full day right now between Loucks Elementary and Wallace, the two student bodies that will combine when construction on Wallace is complete.

The district could lose two classrooms without noticing an impact on classes or programs, superintendent Emilie Lonardi said. Losing four or six would have a more significant impact, most likely requiring preschool or special education classrooms to move out of the building.

The risk: The district would save about $184,000 by deducting two classrooms from the original plans, but several board members said the savings wouldn't be worth the risk of needing that space later.

Many of those board members said the land Wallace sits on will be too small to efficiently build on again, and that the goal is to build now for the next 15 years.

"We're doing this on a footprint of land that will never see a backhoe again," said board member Robert Crouse.

The board should choose to build as much as it can now, instead of seeing enrollment unexpectedly spike and not have classroom space later, said board member Ralph Brandt.

But board member Jeanne Herman said if the original plans are kept, another use for the spaces should be found.

"Knowing where we are financially right now, I just hate to see a number of classrooms go unutilized indefinitely," Herman said.

If the board would keep the original 26 classrooms, the district could possibly rent a few classrooms out to a daycare or a similar organization, Lonardi said.

The board will vote to approve the bids and determine the number of classrooms at the board meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 20, at the middle school.

- Reach Nikelle Snader at nsnader@yorkdispatch.com.