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Lancaster schools unveil $57.3 million capital project with broad scope

The Lancaster School District is proposing a wide-ranging $57.3 million capital project that calls for basic maintenance and safety improvements to all its buildings.

It also includes a new turf field and an expanded, improved fieldhouse at the high school campus, as well as relocating the district’s transportation building and all busing operations from the high school campus.

The project would go before voters in the May 19 budget and school election vote. School officials said the base project totals $49.6 million, with an additional $7.7 million for the turf field and fieldhouse expansion and improvements only to be done if the Lancaster Educational and Alumni Foundation can raise $1 million to cover the local share of the cost of those two components.

In all, the project would qualify for 80 percent state aid, district officials said.

The capital project contains numerous housekeeping elements and is still in its preliminary planning stages.

But as district officials noted in presenting it Monday night, it also promises to contain “wow” factors. They include:

• The renovation of the high school music wing which would include a “black box” theater for music performances and an art gallery.

• Building a new gymnasium and reconfiguring athletic space.

• Improvements at the high school athletic entrance.

• A new outdoor track to replace the existing one, which is 27 years old.

• And a new transportation facility on 30 acres already owned by the district on Walden Avenue near Pavement Road.

The biggest showpieces include a $4 million artificial turf field, including lights and a bleacher area, for football and other sports. Also on tap is $2 million worth of improvements to the 1998 fieldhouse, which would undergo a 10,000-square-foot expansion behind the high school.

“This allows us to set the mark for other school districts,” School Board member Bill Gallagher said in praising the project’s scope.

Superintendent Michael J. Vallely said he believes the capital project would be all-encompassing in addressing needs that have existed for decades and also propel the district forward. “I believe this puts everything together in a manageable way” along with addressing many needs, he said.

“Now is the time to capitalize on this vision and see if the community will support it,” Vallely said.

District officials did not give estimates on the impact of the project on taxpayers, saying that a more detailed analysis would follow sometime this spring. But they went out of their way to stress that the project, if approved by voters, would not increase the amount of the district’s yearly debt service. The local share of the district debt load would stay the same for the next 15 years because the district will be paying off other debts, officials said.