BASD: Board tours middle school
The uncushioned fold-down seats in Nitschmann MS's auditorium, far fewer than one might think of seeing at a school with 900 students, are every bit as uncomfortable as they look. The cavernous room is also filled with an array of band equipment and generally looks shabby.
And it was the site of the Bethlehem Area School District's board of directors' facilities meeting Oct. 1, which followed a tour of much of the equally-dingy building.
Point well made.
The directors spoke at length of slowly-coalescing plans for the aged school, which actually comprises three decades-old buildings constructed during very different eras. Consulting engineer Mark Stein said they've narrowed the best options for the future of Nitschmann to six choices, ranging from "do nothing" to "construct an entirely new school." The options in between offer various levels of renovation.
Stein said Nitschmann already costs 16 percent more to maintain than other district middle schools and the first option, which is to, "Maintain, maintain, maintain," is the cheapest, but, "sooner or later you have to deal with it," he said, describing numerous items that must be done that will still cost an estimated $15 million.
Board President Mike Faccinetto was the only member to speak his mind definitively, saying he feels the only viable options are complete building replacement or closure.
But closure will cause problems too, said Superintendent Dr. Joseph Roy, explaining moving Nitschmann's 900 students to other schools would cause an overflow problem. Existing rooms at district middle schools, operating at maximum class size for administrators' comfort levels, will only find places for about 620 of Nitschmann's 900 students. "So we'd have a problem," Roy said.
Roy added that while this isn't a rush job, he'd like direction from the board within a month or so as to which options to focus on, because delving into any will cost time and money. He promised refined timelines and numbers on the projects for the Oct. 8 finance committee meeting.