The plan being pushed by the “New Majority” of the Ringgold School Board includes four projects.
1) Renovate the Donora Elementary Center (DEC) to become an intermediate center (grades five and six)
2) Renovate the Monongahela Elementary Center (MEC) to become a middle school (grades seven and eight)
3) Add six new classrooms to the Ringgold Elementary School North and completely new HVAC system
4) Perform some needed repairs to the Ringgold High School.
The above would be followed by the closure of the the Finley Middle School on Rt. 88 with students attending the renovated buildings in Donora and Monongahela.
There were three motions on the agenda related to items 1, 2 and 3 above. For each of these three projects, the following motions were on the agenda.
The Ringgold Board of School Directors authorizes the Administration and Architect/Engineering firm HHSDR to submit PLANCON Part A “Project justification” and Part B “Schematic Drawings” for each of items 1, 2, and 3 above.
This is the first time since they proposed their plan that they admitted to the necessity of using PLANCON. Their “plan” up until tonight was that they were going to complete this project on their own and if they were not using state funds, they didn’t need to submit to PLANCON procedures.
The motions did not reach the floor, as they also decided to try to find another architect/engineering firm. The board has become unhappy with HHSDR. I expect the motions to reappear when they’ve settled on an architect/engineering firm. One of the requirements placed on any new A/E firm is that they have school construction experience under the PLANCON system.
School Board member Marianne Bulko, who’s a hold-over from the prior board, surprised all by flooring a motion to have the solicitor prepare a referendum for the November ballot asking voters if they favor construction of a new middle school building for grades six, seven and eight near the existing Ringgold High School. The solicitor informed her that he would need to create the language for the referendum, and the motion was modified to authorize him to do so and submit it to the board. The motion passed (8/0/1).
Minority board member Chris Carroll conducted a detailed comparison of the overall costs of building a new middle school vs. renovating MEC and DEC based on past HHSDR estimates. Although he did not present the findings at the meeting, his analysis shows the cost and tax impacts for the two plans to be very close.
It’s critical that the referendum make it clear that there will be tax increases regardless of whether the “renovation” plan or the “new building” plan were to be adopted. If this isn’t made clear, the vote may be skewed toward the “renovation plan.”