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The Dover Area school board voted last week to move toward the design phase of one of four building options for the district’s high school and intermediate school.

The board voted 8-1 last Tuesday to approve Option 2 of the four projects presented by architects Crabtree, Rohrbaugh and Associates.

The option would build a new high school on the grounds of the current intermediate school while the existing high school would be converted into an intermediate school.

The plan has an estimated cost of nearly $70 million.

Dover board President Nathan Eifert said the board’s vote on the design phase does not mean that construction of the school is guaranteed, but it will guide the district toward a plan if needed.

“It is just taking us to that next step to say this is where we think ... we need to (go regarding what) our next option is,” he said.

Dover’s business manager, Jennifer Benko, was absent but left a statement to the board, according to Eifert, giving a “worst-case scenario” analysis of choosing Option 2. The worst-case estimate to taxpayers would amount to a 2-mill increase, or cost the average homeowner in Dover about $235 over a 10-year period.

“It’s about $2 a month,” Eifert said.

Eifert reminded attendees that the board has not raised property taxes in the district for three years and has the fifth-lowest tax rate among school districts in the county.

“This board has been very responsible and very respectful of our community,” he said.

“We’re all taxpayers, too. We recognize the challenges there.”

Reimbursements: In June, Crabtree’s presenters said there were uncertainties when it came to potential state reimbursements under the Department of Education's 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.

At the June 18 meeting, Crabtree official John Beddia updated the board regarding PlanCon, saying that because of a moratorium in place since May 2016, new projects cannot be proposed to PlanCon for state reimbursement through the end of the 2017-18 fiscal year.

That development left options 1 and 4 ineligible for a reimbursement, while option 3 is still in limbo with the Department of Education.

Option 2 was the only option last week that had an estimateed reimbursement under PlanCon — $4 million, in this case — and was also the option with the highest overall rating from Crabtree at last month’s meeting.

Public opinion: During public comment before the vote, some residents spoke in favor of a new high school.

Physical education teacher Lauren Craig told board members the previous renovation to the high school has “left the school with more issues,” claiming roofs leak every time there is a torrential downpour.

“Students have to run around (buckets) during instruction,” she said.

Craig also said she knows of some students who do not feel proud to be from Dover in part because of the facilities issues.

“I’m not saying that a materialistic thing like a school or a new building will change their perspective, but I think it can give them hope that we do care about them,” she said. “They deserve that.”

Fellow Dover parent and teacher Barbara Lomenzo also spoke to the feelings of neglect from students.

“There is a sense among the student body that we ‘don’t matter enough,’” she said. “We don’t matter enough to have something that works.”

She also noted a host of issues regarding facilities at the school, including railings for the elderly at the stadium and ventilation in classrooms.

“My room is cold all year long,” the 23-year veteran of the district told board members. “You could store meat and milk in my room in January.”

Toward the end of the meeting, board member Charles DeLauter said it pained him to hear of such sentiments coming from students.

“Listening to teachers and students talk about how the students don’t feel that they’re appreciated, it breaks my heart,” he said.

“That’s why I’m here — on this board — is to make sure that these students have the best education that we can provide for them.”

If the district decides to move forward with construction on Option 2, that phase of the project could start in July 2018, according to a Crabtree estimate from a prior presentation.

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