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Plum ditches modular classroom idea in favor of expanding Center Elementary

Michael DiVittorio
| Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017, 3:42 p.m.
Daniel Engen of VEBH Architects shows plans for expansion of Center Elementary School to the audience at a recent Plum school board meeting.
Michael DiVittorio | Tribune-Review
Daniel Engen of VEBH Architects shows plans for expansion of Center Elementary School to the audience at a recent Plum school board meeting.

Regency Park Elementary students will stay at their school one more year as an expansion project at Center Elementary moves forward.

Plum school board members recently approved a plan for adding six classrooms at Center, rather than bringing in modular units to house the students. Steve Schlauch, Vicky Roessler and Sue Caldwell voted against the plan.

“It's kind of a relief to get something resolved,” said board President Kevin Dowdell. “The kids from Regency deserve to have a plan in mind to know what to expect in a few years.”

The project is expected to go out for bid in January and be completed for the start of the 2019-20 school year.

Regency students have been housed for more than two years at the former Holiday Park Elementary, after their school was razed.

Cost for the expansion project is estimated at $1.5 million to $1.8 million. Parking lot upgrades could add $500,000 to the price tag, officials said.

It is all to be paid for using $4.5 million from a $10 million loan taken out in 2014 to build a school to replace Regency. The rest of the loan was used for planning construction of an elementary school and maintenance of Holiday Park.

Schlauch said the board could spend less by acquiring modular classrooms, and use the rest of the money for repairs at Oblock Junior High School and other facilities.

“We have a lot of major capital projects coming down the pike, and we don't know how much we're going to need,” he said. “We could save our financial resources.”

The modular units were estimated to cost between $820,000 and $1 million and be available for the next school year, which means the Regency students could have been moved earlier. But Dowdell said modulars would have only lasted about 10 years, compared to 30 expected for the addition onto Center.

“I think in the longer term, the permanent solution would be more cost-effective,” Dowdell said.

Caldwell, however, said that declining enrollment outlined in a recent study makes the expansion project unnecessary. Enrollment is expected to decrease annually for the next 10 years, according to the study posted on the district's website .

“I just see this project being completely unnecessary numbers-wise by 2021, and eating up all our funding,” Caldwell said. “My idea was to lease modulars, move the library to the modulars and create an innovation center there, and create new classrooms in the existing school.”

Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2367.

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