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LASD approves mask-optional health and safety plan; discusses financing for building reconstruction

Saying plans were very much open to change, Superintendent Chris Bigger updated the school board on Monday Dec. 13 on the proposed building project for renovations to the high school which would combine it with the middle school.

“Where are we headed? It’s still to be determined,” he said.

Bigger said bids for the project would probably begin in about a year and that the construction would take 2 years.

Bigger said the estimated cost would be between $43 and $49 million and that a decision would also need to be made on what to do with the Maple Ave. Middle School building which would be vacated.

“We need to design the buildings first to see what it would cost and what it would look like,” said Bigger.

Bigger said the district had been planning since 2015 for the needed construction and had made substantial savings by consolidating buildings to reduce staff.  

Bigger said the consolidations had made the construction process possible. “We currently have a healthy budget. If we hadn’t consolidated those two schools we wouldn’t even be in a position to consider a building project.”

Bigger noted that over the past years staff expenses had been declining to match a declining student enrollment. He said district expenses are normally under revenue by $800k to $1 million annually which has led to a fund balance of almost $8 million. Bigger said the thought an additional $400,000 in savings on personnel was possible going forward.

Bigger said the board had been given “financial accolades” by its financial planning organization on multiple occasions for “thinking ahead.”

Bigger said in a prior meeting he had shared several different likely possibilities for spending and taxation, including a worst and best case scenario. 

The worst cases, he said, would require a 3 percent tax increase per year for 4 years, but that scenario was only one possible outcome and that the final tax rates would be determined on basis of “a whole bunch of factors.”

Bigger said the school had been working with staff and community members on making decisions about how to go forward. “The last 18 months has been intense. We hope for big dreams and a beautiful building but at the same time we know we have limited resources. We have an entire year before we go out to bid. This is just the starting point.”

Bigger said LASD was in the middle on most financial statistics in comparison to the other districts in Adams County. “We certainly haven’t borrowed a lot. That’s both good and bad,” he said.

“It’s my job to put options in front of you,” said Bigger.

Health and Safety Plan Approved

The board approved a revision to the district’s Health and Safety plan which moves to a mask optional policy for everyone, and which has been in effect for the past week. The full text of the plan is here.

The planned passed on an 8 to 1 vote with Brian Lawyer voting no.

The plan also includes relaxed guidelines for quarantining, allowing children who have been exposed to Covid but who have no symptoms to return to school.

Bigger said about ½ of the students had been wearing masks before the revision went into effect, and that number had stayed about the same after the change. Bigger noted that fewer adults were now wearing masks.

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Charles Stangor is Gettysburg Connection's Publisher and Editor in Chief.

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