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MASD’s plans for elementary schools slowed, options will be narrowed to 3

By Laura Hayes

laurahayes@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 4/3/19

Middletown Area School District is in a “holding pattern” regarding what to do about its elementary schools.

For the past several months, the district has discussed their future …

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MASD’s plans for elementary schools slowed, options will be narrowed to 3

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Middletown Area School District is in a “holding pattern” regarding what to do about its elementary schools.

For the past several months, the district has discussed their future configuration. One of the suggestions was to build a new elementary school on the district campus where the high school, middle school and Reid Elementary School are located, off North Union Street just north of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

“We’re kind of in a holding pattern right now because there’s a lot of unknowns, but we’re going to continue to move forward,” Superintendent Lori Suski said during a March 26 special board meeting.

Worst-case scenario, Suski said, the board might not make a decision by June, which Suski said was their soft deadline.

One unknown involves the sale of the Williams farm tract, which is now under contract.

The Realtor for Tom and Tiz Williams, Jim Koury, told the Press & Journal that a “large national developer” is interested in three of the four tracts, including those on either side of Kunkel Elementary School.

The district had considering selling the land on which Kunkel sits because of the potential of the sale of the Williams tract.

“Obviously timing is everything, and if it is under contract and there are some decisions based on what we hear,” Suski said.

Second, the district is anticipating the results of an enrollment projection study by Decision Insite, which may be presented to the school board either April 2 or April 16.

“If the data comes back from Decision Insite and it doesn’t marry with what [consultants Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates] was showing us, this is going to be a very different conversation,” Suski said.

Administrators met with Crabtree, Rohrbaugh and Associates after the public meeting and came up with 20 building scenarios. Crabtree, Suski said, is going to narrow that list to three.

Traffic talks

A third issue is traffic if the school is built on the district campus. Suski, district operations director William Meiser and an official from Crabtree, Rohrbaugh and Associates interviewed three traffic engineering firms who responded to MASD’s request for proposal for a traffic study.

Suski said the board needs to vote on the traffic study by April 2.

“We had discussed that if we do move forward with a project on the campus, there was a lot of concern expressed by the public about the traffic flow on the campus, in particular how the parking could be affected by that with having now four buildings instead of three on the campus,” Suski said.

She said the traffic engineer will look at traffic counts, if an alternative access is needed, and if turning lanes need to be extended or traffic lights added.

Board members Darnell Montgomery and Julie Gomboc-Turyan supported voting for a firm during the meeting — K&W Engineers, based in Harrisburg, for $19,980.

Board President Linda Mehaffie said while she wasn’t against the study, she was against having it done right now.

“We just paid $9,000 to do that [enrollment] study. … So why are we going to go and spend $19,000 on something where we don’t even know that we really even need to do that,” Mehaffie said.

Gomboc-Turyan rescinded her motion to take a vote.

Meiser shared some of the engineer’s feedback during their meeting with the district. He said the engineer didn’t like the idea of a school at the end of a cul-de-sac with only one way in or out.

“Their argument there I really didn’t bite on because that’s what the middle school is,” he said.

The engineer suggested connecting the road to the township parking lot near the Greenfield Park soccer fields as an emergency exit route, Meiser said.

“That’s probably a downfall of the site that there is only one route of egress in and out,” Meiser said.

Suski said the engineers want to visit the campus on a rainy day because most parents drive their kids to school when it’s raining so their child is not standing in the rain “to see the worst possible case scenario for parent drop-off.”

During the meeting, board member Christopher Lupp asked whether it would be possible to work with Lower Swatara Township and build the new school on the soccer fields at Greenfield Park and let the township build its soccer fields where they were proposing to build the new school. There’s more area to work with there, Lupp said.

Suski said they could look into his suggestion.