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Schuykill Haven school officials approve ‘long overdue’ face-lift for gym lobby

The Schuylkill Haven Area School Board on Wednesday approved a project to renovate the entrance and surrounding area of the high school gymnasium.

The project includes updates to improve safety and security, as well as a renovation of the lobby and entrance that will include the addition of dining tables and a monitor so games can be watched from outside of the gym, said Dr. Shawn Fitzpatrick, superintendent.

“The whole lobby entrance will change, the concession stand will change and all the trophies that were moved upstairs will be brought back to display again closer to the gymnasium,” Fitzpatrick said.

The project will also create an office for the athletic department and convert the old office into a storage closet.

The flooring in the lobby area will be replaced, eliminating the need to spend money to wax the floor.

The tile will be repainted, and a new ceiling grid and LED lighting will be added as well, Fitzpatrick said.

He said the project was long overdue.

“That hallway has taken a beating over the years,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s exciting. I think it (the project) is going to be something that people will be proud of.”

Construction is slated to start in the middle of May and wrap up by the end of August in time for the new school year.

The contract for the work was awarded to Miller Bros. Construction Inc., Schuylkill Haven, for $546,080.

A contract for the electric work will go to Albarell Electric Inc., Bethlehem, for $61,326.

The project — originally approved by the board before the COVID-19 pandemic — would use the remainder of a $2.5 million bond issuance.

The bond also partially funded the 30,000- square-foot, $5.5 million Lehigh Valley Health Network indoor sports performance complex, which opened in August.

Fitzpatrick said the district’s next renovation priorities are improvements to the middle school heating and ventilation system, and installing new, disability accessible equipment for the elementary school playground.

In other business, school officials discussed how Gov. Josh Shapiro’s recently proposed 2023-24 education budget might impact the district.

Business manager Kimberly Umphrey noted the proposal includes several funding increases that could affect the district, including a $103 million increase in special education funding, $100 million in matching grants for environmental repairs and $100 million in safety and security grants.

In addition, the proposal looks to include continuing the state’s universal free breakfast program, as well as covering the costs of lunch for students who are receiving reduced-price lunches.

More than 500 students take advantage of the free breakfast, school officials said.

Thirty-four students receive reduced-price lunches, Umphrey said.

Fitzpatrick noted the district has managed to keep its fund balance relatively stable over the past five years, depleting it by only $100,000.

“Which is unheard of, when every year for the last six we projected million dollar deficits,” Fitzpatrick said.

He said most of the reason the district hasn’t had to dip deeper into the fund balance is because of the additional funding received through the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, a $53.4 billion COVID relief initiative.

Fitzpatrick said the hope for future funding increases lies in the results of a February case in state Commonwealth Court that ruled the state’s current K-12 funding system was unconstitutional, with the court finding the fundamental right to education was being denied to low-wealth districts.

“What I expect to see in the first phase of this fair funding is more money coming to schools that have physical places to maintain,” Fitzpatrick said.

Source: Berkshire mont

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