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Franklin Regional school board moves ahead with plans for elementary campus at Sloan site

Patrick Varine
| Monday, May 15, 2017, 9:45 p.m.

Franklin Regional school board members on Monday authorized their contracted architects to begin design work to convert Sloan Elementary into a lower elementary school and to build a new upper elementary school on the Sloan campus.

The board voted unanimously to both accept VEBH Architects' feasibility and facilities study and to have VEBH move forward with design plans.

VEBH will be paid 6 percent of the total cost of the project, which will move forward in phases, with several alternatives for the board to choose from in each facet of the design process.

Several district residents questioned how the project would be funded and what its tax implications would be, particularly with the study's recommendations for the middle school and high school yet to be addressed.

Linda Marts of Murrysville said it was “unconscionable for the district to think about spending $50 million when the state and federal governments are running at a deficit and considering cuts to education.”

Stan Cheyne of Delmont worried that the board may be fixing one problem and creating another.

“You can have the best schools, but you have to have the parents and students to support them,” Cheyne said, citing district tax hikes every year dating back to 2003. “They're not going to move here if they see the high tax rates.”

Among the board's goals for the project, President Larry Borland cited a desire by both the district and many parents for educational equity among elementary students; improving the parking congestion, general traffic flow and safety at the main campus on School Road; and improving laboratory, technical and performing arts spaces for students.

Resident Ross Eaton said he supports the board's plan, and that the flexibility it will provide “can't be overstated.”

“This provides for more efficient use of our shared resources,” he said.

Board member John Koury, who oversaw the feasibility study, said the renovation and new construction is being driven by “the current educational vision that we have for this school district.”

“We have a road map for what we want to do,” Koury said. “And it's being implemented as best it can with our current facilities. The (new) building is going to match the vision, and not the reverse.”

That was little comfort to Marts.

“Those of use who have lived here a long time love it here,” she said. “And we don't want to see our taxes increased. They just keep going up every year.”

Patrick Varine is a staff writer for the Tribune-Review. He can be reached at 724-850-2862, pvarine@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.

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