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Lebanon School District’s new middle school – a much hoped-for balm for overcrowding in the schools – is well on its way toward completion.
“We are about one third of the way through” the two-year construction project, district superintendent Arthur Abrom told LebTown.
“While certain project milestones have been delayed,” he added, “there has been no change to the overall completion date.”
Similarly, he said, there have been a few minor hitches in the work, but nothing that will have a significant impact on the final cost of the price tag.
“As always, several unforeseen circumstances have arisen,” Abrom said, “but appropriate planning and intentional management are keeping additional costs minimal to date.”
Work started on the new 145,000-square-foot middle school – the centerpiece of the district’s plan to alleviate overcrowding – in September of last year. The new structure is being built next to Lebanon High School, at 1000 S. 8th St., on what was a network of secondary athletic fields. (The fields are being relocated to land owned by the district south of Wilhelm Avenue.)
The city school district is the fastest growing district in Lebanon and Lancaster counties, according to recent reports. The current middle school on North 8th Street, once Lebanon High School, was built in 1937.
The new building will cost an estimated $62 million, and will house up to 900 seventh- and eighth-grade students, district officials have said. The estimated occupancy date is September 2024.
“The phases of construction necessarily overlap substantially on a project of this magnitude and schedule,” Abrom told LebTown. “The earthwork, building foundations and concrete slabs are mostly completed. Structural steel erection, masonry walls and roofing are following with other concurrent activities.”
A curious onlooker can get a peek at the progress, he noted. “A drive down Wilhelm Avenue or South 8th Street provides a nice view of the project site where most facets of construction can be witnessed.”
Or, join us from above for a quick aerial tour.
Additional phases will follow
Once the new building is occupied, the current middle school on North 8th Street will be renovated for use as an intermediate school, housing the city’s fifth- and sixth-grade students. The city’s five elementary schools, some of which are already over capacity, will then be reconfigured for use by just the kindergarten through 4th grade classes, according to a plan to alleviate overcrowding that has been in the works since 2018.
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Abrom noted previously that districtwide enrollment rose sharply from 4,237 students in 2003 to 5,500 in 2018.
Much of the project’s funding comes from the district’s hefty cash reserves as well as a chunk of federal money received through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSERS), a branch of the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Later phases of the project will be paid through a long-term bond issue.
Now that work is underway, Abrom said district administrators remain pleased with the design. Nothing necessary to the district’s expansion was left out of the plans, he said, noting that “the planning and design phase was rigorous and thorough.”
“The Project Team is very excited about the prospect of what this project will mean for the students, staff, and community of Lebanon,” Abrom said.
“Although moving into a new building is a significant undertaking the Team at Lebanon School District is up to the task! We will be ready to open in September of 2024.”
Once the new middle school is occupied, the superintendent said, the plan to renovate the old middle school for its new use will take about three years to complete – “approximately one year of design work,” he explained, “and two years of an occupied, phased construction project.
If everything goes as planned, he said, fifth-grade students will move into the intermediate building in September 2026.
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