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State reimbursement for a proposed building project in the Dover Area School District remains uncertain, even as the estimated cost creeps higher.

The school board got its first look at four options for new or renovated high school and intermediate schools at a June 13 meeting.

John Beddia and Scott Cousin from Crabtree, Rohrbaugh and Associates delivered the hourlong presentation, during which they revised earlier projections.

Costs: Crabtree officials had estimated a cost range of $54 million to $58 million for a new high school sized for 1,200 students in a study presented in May 2016.

In the new presentation, Crabtree cited capacity concerns in building a space for 1,200 students and raised the figure to 1,400 students.

The concerns of overcrowding in a 1,200-student school, construction cost and overall cost escalation led Crabtree to a new estimate of $64.8 million for a new high school, a difference of nearly $7 million from its prior highest estimate.

The four options for the building, none of which has been actually designed, were conceptualized in a diagram.

The initial 250,000-square-foot estimate for the building has been changed to 275,000 square feet. The existing Dover Area High School is 216,000 square feet.

The intermediate school also saw a jump in size, from 123,130 square feet to 135,200 square feet, according to Beddia. He added that the addition of sixth grade to the intermediate school would necessitate the addition of approximately 12,000 square feet to the facility.

Options: The Crabtree representatives delivered four options that varied in scope, disruption and cost. The four options, with cost and disruption estimates, are:

 

Option 1:

  • Demolish the current high school and build a new one on the same site.

  • Make renovations and additions to the intermediate school.

  • Disruption would be moderate at the high school but significant at the intermediate school.

  • Cost: $94.6 million.

 

Option 2:

  • Demolish the intermediate school and build a new high school on that site.

  • Convert the current high school to an intermediate school.

  • Sixth-graders can be accommodated in the intermediate school.

  • Disruption would be moderate at the high school and minimal at the intermediate school.

  • Cost: $69.8 million.

 

Option 3:

  • Make renovations and additions to the high school.

  • Make renovations and additions to the intermediate school, including adding sixth grade.

  • Disruption to both the high school and intermediate school would be significant.

  • Cost: $82.9 million.

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Option 4:

  • Convert the intermediate school to a high school.

  • Convert the high school to an intermediate school, which would include sixth grade.

  • Disruption to both would be significant.

  • Cost: $65.8 million.

Cousin said the disruption for Option 1, as well as its estimated cost of $94.6 million — the most expensive of the four options — might be enough to remove it from consideration.

According to Beddia, board members have expressed a desire to start construction by July 2018. With that “compressed time frame,” board members would have to decide by next month if they would like to pursue one of the options, he said.

Cousin stressed the decision to move forward on an option would merely start the design phase of the project and not the actual tear-down or renovation of buildings. He added the approval for construction payments would occur when agreements are made between the board and contractors.

Dover business manager Jennifer Benko also stressed the preliminary nature of the process, saying the estimates are subject to change and the project is subject to cancellation up to the point of bidding.

Beddia estimated construction would take about 24 months, with an expected completion in the summer of 2020, assuming the district sees a July 2018 construction start date.

The representatives said the decision was for the board to make but appeared to show a preference for Option 2 in their ratings given toward the end of their presentation.

Reimbursement concerns: Some board members raised concerns over reimbursement from the Department of Education through the Planning and Construction Workbook.

Also known as PlanCon, the program documents a school district's planning process for construction, provides justification to the public, ensures districts are in compliance with state laws and establishes a level of reimbursement to districts for construction, according to its website.

During the presentation of Option 1, board member and treasurer Steve Cook asked about the reimbursement for prior projects, such as renovations to Dover Area High School in 2003, and whether it would be affected by the new project.

Cousin said Crabtree has been “playing phone tag” with the Department of Education to get an estimate of reimbursements, but he added that past projects would “most likely forego” reimbursements from the state once the board decides to start additions or renovations to the high school.

Benko concurred. 

“After talking to (the Pennsylvania Department of Education), (they) said that we wouldn't have to (pay back) what we've already received ... but we wouldn't receive that going forward,” the district's business manager said.

In the PlanCon workbook, there is a “20-year rule” that states in part, “Buildings may only qualify for school construction reimbursement every 20 years at a minimum unless a variance is requested and approved.”

Cousin said the district would have to apply for a variance to be eligible for reimbursement and is working with the Department of Education to figure out what the stipulations are for an exemption from the rule.

Several board members declined to comment or express preference for any of the options.

 

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