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New school tops options for adding space

A new elementary school in Lancaster could be the best answer to the district's looming space crunch, the School Board was told Monday.

Under the proposal touted by a committee of parents, teachers and administrators, Lancaster also would redistrict all its kindergarten to third-grade schools.

Central Avenue Elementary School would close, and the district's administrative offices would move into the building. With 248 pupils, Central Avenue is the smallest of Lancaster's five elementary schools. Como Park Elementary, the next-smallest building, has 370.

The committee's proposal is merely a recommendation. The final decision rests with the School Board, and the public would have to approve a new building in a referendum.

The vote could be held as early as this fall, Superintendent Thomas J. Markle said, but was more likely some time next year.

Lancaster expects elementary school enrollment to grow by about 200 pupils in the next five years, according to Gerald Glose, the retired Frontier school superintendent who worked with the committee as a consultant. The proposed new school would house up to 450 pupils.

"Right now, it's not broken. [But] people are coming," Glose told the board. "You need to make some considerations. Over the long haul, something really needs to be done."

Such a building would cost $8 million to $10 million, the district's architect has estimated. The state would reimburse nearly 75 percent of the cost.

The burden on local property taxes would mean an increase of 10 to 12 cents per $1,000 of assessed value for the next 30 years, officials estimated. That translates into $10 to $12 a year for a home assessed at $100,000, or $300 to $360 over the life of the bond issue.

A plan for additions at two to four elementary schools -- which would cost about half as much -- ranked a close second among committee members' options. The 28-member group, however, unanimously preferred building a new school.

That approach seemed to win support from a majority of the board.

"We have a legal and moral responsibility to children," Kenneth Graber said.

The district owns three parcels of land large enough for an elementary school. The committee deemed two to be viable sites but did not recommend a specific location.

e-mail: mpasciak@buffnews.com

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