Time for AASD board to move forward together
Disagreement, uncertainty and fears will continue in the wake of the Altoona Area School Board’s awarding of contracts on Monday for the proposed high school construction and renovation project.
It will be a situation not unique to the local school system. Few school districts embark on a project of major scope without facing a degree of opposition along the way.
Usually the opposition diminishes as the project progresses and has evaporated once the doors to the new facilities are ready to be opened.
Hopefully, that will occur here as district residents become increasingly familiar with the better educational opportunities that the new and upgraded facilities will offer for students.
Additionally, taxpayers of this district can feel fortunate that Altoona Area is in enviable financial shape and that the project will not impose an excessive burden on them, despite the project’s $87.3 million cost.
Meanwhile, there are a couple of other important considerations that should not be ignored.
First, the school board, despite the 5-4 vote that gave the project the go-ahead, is right to embrace a build-it-right-the-first-time attitude. Tackling the district’s facilities needs in a piecemeal way would have been costlier in the long run.
Second, the nation is exiting the lowest-interest-rates scenario that has existed for several years. The coming higher interest rates, along with higher construction costs, would pose a greater financial challenge for taxpayers years from now than what the newly approved project will bring.
Finally, this is not a project that has been subjected to hasty and haphazard planning. A total of 2¢ years were expended in reviewing the many construction and renovation possibilities, the various related needs and the district’s projected student demographics.
Rather than speak negatively in the months ahead about what was decided, board members who voted “no” should now turn their attention to helping their colleagues and the administration bring the project to reality by the best show of harmony possible.
Their help will be needed if decisions regarding any change orders are necessary, and they should be willing to provide cooperative input regarding questions that undoubtedly will surface as the construction phase proceeds.
While bricks and mortar don’t educate young people, they are the foundation for the educational opportunities that exist within their walls.
Antiquated or crowded facilities inhibit the kind of educational progress that’s available in school systems that have addressed modern needs.
The project plan chosen involves renovation of the current high school A building, construction of a new B building, demolition of the existing 90-year-old B building and construction of a new intramural field at the site of the building that will be razed.
The project also will resolve elementary school space issues.
All that with a total additional-tax-millage impact that’s estimated to be 0.61 mills.
Even if that impact ends up a bit higher, it’s a situation that taxpayers in many other school districts would envy.
With the district now having decided to proceed, district residents should try to put disagreement, uncertainty and fears to rest.
School board members were elected to make tough decisions as well as easy ones, and whether residents agree or disagree with what transpired on Monday, it’s clear that all nine board members approached their duty regarding this project responsibly.