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Movin' on up, from the West Side

| Monday, Aug. 21, 2006

Administrators with Connellsville Area School District have a new home at Connellsville Township Elementary School.

The offices are at the rear of the school, separate from the students.

"It's nice, much more like a professional office," Superintendent Jim Duncan said, "because everything is on one floor, it's handicap-accessible. It's a nice business operation."

"It's a whole new atmosphere there," said school Director Ed Zadylak, who strongly supported the move. "It's very good for the taxpayers. I'm finishing what the district's Citizens Committee recommended in 1994. When I visited Connellsville Township, I found empty classrooms. The move is long overdue. The offices are sharing utilities and sharing custodial services with the school."

The offices occupy six former classrooms and the former library. The library was moved to a former classroom. None of the school's approximate 160 students had to transfer to another school.

District employees performed the remodeling. The final cost has not yet been calculated.

Directors voted last week to sell the 90 year-old Crawford School building and vacant property across the street on the West Side of Connellsville. The Crawford building had housed the administration offices since the 1970s, when the school was closed.

Last year, school directors approved moving the administrative to the vacant warehouse near Junior High West, but scrapped the idea when estimates to remodel the building reached nearly $1 million.

Zadylak said the move to Connellsville Township will save the district $85,000 or more annually on utilities and maintenance.

The new offices will save energy, Duncan said. Electricity and gas at the elementary school are already on during the school year, and during the summer, the air conditioner has been programmed to cool only the administration offices.

Over the years, the Crawford building had deteriorated. Plaster fell from the ceilings, and a large stone lion's head fell from a decorative medallion over the arched doorway of the main entrance in 2005. The head dented metal stair rails but fell in the evening and did not hurt anyone.

The boiler dates from the first half of the 20th century and was converted from coal to gas in 1956. The wiring cannot support all of the district's new technology.

Duncan said the building needs a new furnace, new windows and plaster, masonry and roof work.

"It would be a beautiful building if we had the money to maintain it," Duncan said. "It could be beautiful again."

Duncan is pleased with the move overall. The 10 administrators and their secretarial staff "are very grateful," Duncan said.

"This is the first building the district has closed since 1982, when the Dawson/Vanderbilt School closed," Duncan said. "All districts have to look at ways to consolidate to save money. The region is looking at projected student losses through 2014."

A few records remain at Crawford, but they will be moved shortly. Duncan said the district has a tremendous amount of records. By law, certain student records must be kept for 100 years.

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