Spring-Ford $12.1M high school expansion proposal moves forward

ROYERSFORD >> The Spring-Ford Area School Board just signaled its serious intention to move forward with major construction at the high school Monday night.

In a 7-1 decision, the board authorized the architectural firm of Crabtree, Rohrbaugh and Associates to move into the design development and construction document phase of a proposed expansion and renovation of the school’s performing arts and physical education wings. This includes an additional hallway near the cafeteria.

Board member Mark Dehnert dissented. Board member Todd Wolf was absent.

The price tag for the project could cost up to $12.1 million but officials have previously said the current plan would not require a tax increase.

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The current design calls for 31,821 square feet of new construction added to the 400,000-square-foot school building. Included is a physical education wing and performing arts wing. Additionally, the project incorporates a 5,905-square-foot building renovation, which includes an additional hallway near the cafeteria to clear up heavy traffic at lunch time. Exact dimensions for the total project design will be determined in the next design phase, said Bruce Cooper, director of planning, operations and facilities for the district.

If the board approves the entire project, the estimated total cost ranges from $10.5 million to $12.1 million, Chief Financial Officer James Fink said previously.

With Monday night’s decision, the board signaled its serious intention to move forward with this project, Cooper said.

“It’s a major step,” he said. “It means the public, the board, the administration knows they feel this is a need.”

In this next phase of the project, the district will prepare construction documents for bidding based on concept drawings created in the previous schematic design phase, Cooper said. Once bids are received, the board will then make a decision about how to proceed.

“Your never locked in until the board votes to move forward with the project,” he said.

If approved, a possible time line shows construction taking approximately 18-22 months to complete and would have little impact on day-to-day operations, according the district.

School Board Vice President Tom DiBello said he supports the project because he’s heard “overwhelming support” from the community, especially during the town hall meeting held last month, which had approximately 350 people in attendance.

“I have to do what I hear from the community,” he said. “I have yet to see major opposition.”

Board members Dawn Heine, Colleen Zasowski and Bernard Petit said they too have heard support from residents and have seen data that shows the need for the project. The goal of the undertaking, according to the proposal, is to provide ample space and storage needed for the 2,400 students and additional staff and promises to handle the district’s continued population growth in years to come.

Anyone opposed to the proposed project has had ample opportunity to contact anyone on the board and explain their feelings, Zasowski said, but few have done so at this point.

Dehnert felt the “overwhelming support” the others had heard from the community was simply anecdotal evidence. There are approximately 30,000 registered voters in the district, who should have a chance to decide whether to move forward with this project through a referendum, he said.

A check of the Montgomery and Chester County election results websites confirms there are about 30,000 registered voters across Spring-Ford’s three regions.

Before the vote, Clinton Fetterman, president of the Spring-Ford Music Association, said he hoped the board would vote to move forward with construction.

“Overwhelmingly this community has supported the entire project, even the (hallway) you just added on,” he said. “I hope after tonight this is it. We move forward, Mr. Cooper can put it out to bid and in two weeks we can award it. The hamster wheel has to end tonight.”