A projected high-school-enrollment increase of more than 25 percent in the next eight years has Lower Merion School District's administration recommending the construction of additional classrooms at Lower Merion High School, Harriton High School or both.
The district is already in the middle of $24 million worth of expansions at Gladwyne Elementary School, Penn Valley Elementary School, Bala Cynwyd Middle School and Welsh Valley Middle School—projects spurred by estimates of significantly growing enrollment over the next several years.
The two high schools may now join that roster. A recent projection puts their combined enrollment at about 3,200 in the 2021-22 school year, well up from just over 2,500 in the 2014-15 session next year.
Pat Guinnane, the district's director of operations, said at Monday's school board meeting that the distribution of new classrooms would depend on what kind of enrollment balance is struck.
Under current districting, Harriton would need roughly 10 new rooms by 2021 and Lower Merion would need about eight. In another scenario, 14 new classrooms would be added exclusively at Lower Merion, which would see significantly more enrollment than Harriton.
The estimated costs vary depending on several options, but the least expensive option presented, at about $4.4 million, was to renovate the administration's office building to provide 14 to 21 new classrooms next door to LMHS. That does not include the prospect of paying more than $600,000 to install a covered walkway between the two buildings, Guinnane said.
Some board members were skeptical of the need to expand at the degree suggested by the administration, while others backed the reasoning behind the plan. No action was taken on high-school expansion Monday night.
The board did approve contracts for renovations at Penn Valley but rejected those for construction of new permanent rooms at Gladwyne. Bids in both cases came in over budget.
The administration suggested leasing Gladwyne's modular classrooms for a few extra months in 2014 to accommodate a construction schedule lengthened by rebidding. As for Penn Valley, which currently has no modular classrooms, Guinnane said, officials chose to press forward with the over-budget construction rather than pay for modular rooms at an additional building.
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