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West Shore committee recommends $218M-plus project
A West Shore School District committee is recommending a sweeping, multiyear building and renovation project that comes with a price tag of up to $247 million.
The district’s feasibility and facilities committee decided unanimously Wednesday to recommend the first of two options after a yearslong feasibility study process, according to a news release.
The “feeder” option will retain both Cedar Cliff and Red Land high schools but will change the grade levels at the other primary schools, including the introduction of two fifth-through-sixth-grade intermediate schools.
The seven-phase project will begin during the 2019-20 school year and last through 2029, with tax rates projected to increase by 2.9 percent each year. The project is estimated to cost between $218 million and $247 million.
West Shore includes parts of Cumberland County and York County. York County’s West Shore millage rate currently stands at 13.83 mills — the lowest in the county.
The option was overwhelmingly preferred by residents who attended an April 24 public meeting.
“Whenever you have something that’s going to have this large of an impact on not only the district but also on a personal level, people are going to be passionate,” Brett Sanders, the district's director of management information systems, said last week.
“This is about doing what’s best for kids,” he added.
The plan: The option includes renovations and replacements for many of the district’s schools, including seven that have no air conditioning and six that have heating systems more than 30 years old. Under Option 1, six new school buildings would be created, replacing four existing elementary schools (Fishing Creek, Rossmoyne, Newberry and Fairview, all which do not have AC) and creating two new intermediate schools. New Cumberland Middle School and Lower Allen Elementary school would permanently close under the plan.
During the three-hour meeting last week, several attendees suggested district residents vote for an option or for no change at all via a ballot referendum. Sanders said such an act was unnecessary.
“We’re structured as a representative democracy, and the mechanism that we have in place for handling these issues is to have it run through your local school boards,” he said. Sanders said he believes public school boards are among the most accessible forms of government, and voting to not choose an option would only make the problem worse in the future.
“It is clear many families have deep personal connections to our schools and have chosen to live and raise their children in the West Shore School District community because of the experiences our district offers students,” Superintendent Todd Stoltz said in a news release. “We are confident the feeder-school option and the increased opportunities for personalized learning will strengthen that source of pride.”
The feasibility and facilities committee will formally recommend option 1 to the West Shore School Board on May 11.