Having lagged behind the other construction projects in the Warren County School District, the elementary addition in the works at Sheffield Area Middle Senior High School is picking up the pace.
Several updates on the project, which will convert Sheffield into a K-12 facility, were provided to the school board's Physical Plant and Facilities Committee during Monday night's meeting.
The most significant news is that the district was granted a variance from a Pennsylvania Department of Education rule that prohibits state reimbursement on projects "where the costs for alterations are less than 20 percent of the project building's replacement value," according to the PDE website.
District Director of Buildings and Grounds Dr. Norbert Kennerknecht said the district prepared an executive summary, review and narrative, as well as a video that detailed the current condition of the school to show PDE that "an entire renovation of Sheffield High School was not necessary for us to add an elementary wing."
"This is really good news," he said, adding it makes the elementary addition of $1 million of planned renovations to the existing building "all reimbursable."
PDE also has a 20-year rule where a school can't receive reimbursement on future projects undertaken less than 20 years from the last project at a given building. "If something serious happened," Kennerknecht said, "we would give a reason to request a variance." He said the final outcome of such a request would depend on the status of PlanCon in future state budgets.
"This is a big win," Superintendent Brandon Hufnagel said. "(It) should be the last piece of the puzzle to get us started at Sheffield."
The committee also approved PlanCon parts D and E for the project.
PlanCon part D is "concerned with estimated project costs. In this part, various 'tests' of a district's financial ability to make payments are performed," according to PDE. Part E is a design and revision meeting with the state.
PlanCon, short for Planning and Construction Workbook, is a series of "forms and procedures used to apply for Commonwealth reimbursement," according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. "The PlanCon forms are designed to document a local school district's planning process; provide a justification for a project to the public; ascertain compliance with state laws and regulations; and establish the level of state participation in the cost of the project."
"The Sheffield project is moving along quite nicely," Kennerknecht said.
Regarding PlanCon, he said, "We're ready to do both of those and they can be done with PDE at the same time."
The committee also forwarded a request to the full board to approve an "inter-disciplinary review of the architectural, demo, electrical, HVAC, plumbing, technology, life safety and food services drawings and specifications" for the elementary addition at Sheffield" by Redi-Check International, according to information posted on wcsdpa.org.
The district is "at a point where we are ready to submit drawings...for their design review," Kennerknecht said. Noting that the Eisenhower addition review cost $8,874 on a contract that was not to exceed $20,000, Kennerknecht said, "It's a real value for the things they pick up in the drawings." He indicated that the $20,000 cap is a worst-case scenario and the cost of the review should be significantly less.
A bond resolution for the addition was also approved by the committee and will go before the full board for action.
"As we know, QZAB (Qualified Zone Academy Bond) dollars can only be used for renovation and not for new construction," Kennerknecht said. "Government obligation bonds are required for those projects."
The resolution from the board approving the bond issuance will likely be approved at December's meeting.