The Bristol Township School Board approved 5-1 the submission of PlanCon materials to the state Department of Education.
The district’s PlanCon packets, which were prepared by the Schrader Group, layout potential plans to construct new, larger elementary schools and renew the middle and high schools.
The PlanCon submission does not mean the district has to embark on the project, estimated to have a price tag of more than $170 million dollars. The district also does not have to carry out the plans in full.
“These are very preliminary plans,” Dave Schrader, managing partner at the Schrader Group, said to the board during Thursday night’s meeting.
The PlanCon materials have to be presented to the state by October 1 if the district wants to apply for reimbursements. The reimbursements, Schrader estimated, could lead to the district receiving between 15 to 25 percent of their investment back.
Concept plans presented to the board by Schrader propose constructing new K-5 buildings on the grounds of James Buchanan, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Mary Devine elementary schools. The new schools have room for 1,200 students and would cut building maintenance costs for the district.
The district’s other elementary schools would be shuttered and, in most cases, taken down, board president Earl Bruck said.
Neil A. Armstrong Middle School would be renovated and additional parking spaces would be added to the site, according to the plans.
The Benjamin Franklin building, which now houses the district’s administration, would be converted into a middle school. The administration would be moved to another building, according to the PlanCon application presented by Schrader.
Harry S. Truman High School would undergo major renovations under PlanCon.
Helen Cini was the lone voice of opposition on the board to the PlanCon submission.
Cini along with several taxpayers questioned how the district could afford the new buildings. In 2012 alone, the district curtailed staff, cut bus routes and raised taxes.
“I’m very concerned that we would go down this road again given the financial climate,” resident Carol Becker told the board. “It blows my mind that you guys are considering this.”
She added that the district has said in the past they don’t have money to fix driveways, maintain bus routes and pay for textbooks. She wondered how long it would take the district to pay off new debt incurred by construction.
Bruck responded by telling audience that renovations and new schools are necessary for the district because the buildings are getting older and are very inefficient.
“If we wait and don’t do anything and one of our buildings fail, it will cost us,” the board president said.
Low financing rates and low construction cost also make the next few years a desirable time to begin implementing the PlanCon ideas.
Also during the meeting, the board approved a $109,000 payment to the Schrader Group for preparing the PlanCon materials for the district.
District officials said meetings will be held in the coming months to further discuss the district’s building plans.