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Architect says smaller building could work for Allegheny Valley school

Brian C. Rittmeyer
| Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, 11:30 p.m.

A new, but smaller, Colfax Upper Elementary School could work for the Allegheny Valley School District in light of new enrollment projections, an architect for the district said Tuesday.

A smaller school is one of the options designed to keep an elementary school in Springdale. It houses fourth- through sixth-grade students.

It would replace the existing school with a 40,000-square-foot building, at a rough cost of about $12.2 million.

That would be about $4.3 million less than a new, 60,000-square-foot school that would be about the size of the existing school.

The smaller school would be more in line with state calculations for how big the school should be, representatives of Foreman Architects Engineers previously told the school board.

The school board has been considering whether to keep Colfax, either through renovations or new construction, or to close the school. The students would be distributed among classes at Acmetonia Primary School in Harmar and possibly the district's junior-senior high school in Springdale.

Moving students to the other schools, including additions to Acmetonia based on if two or all three grade levels are housed there, is expected to cost $4.8 million to $5.7 million.

That's far less than the $10.4 million for just a limited renovation of Colfax.

Shelby Stewman, of Stewman Demographics, presented the board with the findings of his demographic study of the district that the board commissioned in July.

It examined data that included the population of women of childbearing years, birthrates and migration as well as enrollment in private, charter and parochial schools.

In what Stewman described as the most likely scenario, he forecasts the district's total enrollment to fall from 963 in 2015 to 941 in 2020, then rise to 969 in 2025.

At Colfax, enrollment would rise from 226 in 2015 to 232 in 2017, then fall to 182 in 2020 and 2021, then rise to 242 by 2025.

Terry Thompson, Foreman's vice president of architecture, said with those numbers, he sees the district's enrollment as remaining relatively the same.

Asked if based on that data the proposal for a smaller Colfax school could work, Thompson said, “It's a possibility.”

The school board has not decided what to do with Colfax. Board member Steve Puskar said that at some point the board would have to get the architects' thoughts on how much space, and how many buildings, the district needs.

Board President Larry Pollick said the board will need to begin eliminating certain options and focus on what would be best academically and for the long-term future of the district. Following Stewman's presentation, the board discussed whether state reimbursement would be available for a building project, and if aid would be available should the district opt for work at Acmetonia or the junior-senior high school.

Thompson said state budget proposals have included a moratorium on funding for school building projects, but none have been passed into law. It is not known if a moratorium will happen; the state is still processing projects, he said.

While the state will only pay for building work every 20 years — possibly excluding Acmetonia and the junior-senior high from funding — Thompson said variances could be sought for work at the schools, for reasons such as a change in grade configurations.

Thompson said the district would go through the state process only if it was seeking reimbursement.

“It takes a long time,” he said. “They have 11 steps to go through. It's a time-consuming effort.”

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for the Tribune-Review. Reach him at 724-226-4701 or brittmeyer@tribweb.com.

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