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Construction to begin soon on Palisades science wing

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The Palisades School District will soon begin construction on a $3.2 million renovation for its high school science wing.

The school board action to proceed culminates a nearly four-year process, and prudent fiscal management by previous school boards and their administrations to be able to overcome a 30 percent higher cost than it had budgeted. High school Principal Rich Heffernan summarized the move as “matching the motivation of our kids.”

The move was established by awarding contracts, and authorizing a special funds transfer to its capital projects budget to help pay for them, at the Feb. 19 public school board meeting. The new capital funds “are from the district’s Committed Fund Balance savings accounts,” which were grown through the efforts of previous boards and their staffs, “and do not impact any potential tax increase for 2020-2021.”

During discussion, board members deeply concerned about the 30 percent higher cost heard that the problem was not specific to their district, but representing a general trend of construction costs being plagued by “supply chain issues.” They also heard that costs were likely to increase considerably more if they waited a year or two to start. They then voted unanimously to authorize the fund transfer, and also voted 9-0 and 7-2 in awarding the “lowest responsible” bids.

The project began in 2016 with a request led by science department Chair Mark Chilton and science teacher Susan Mettee, and continued with three years of work by KCBA Architects of Hatfield before the final plan was presented last August.

It features new common areas, for individual study, that join classrooms. Heffernan further noted an “increase in lab space,” increased support for the district’s “growing advanced placement (AP) courses, and also its medical career and engineering career Pathway programs,” which are two of a series of such programs that feature real-life experience while students are still in school.

Contracts were awarded to general contractor Walter Brucker & Co. Inc., of Dublin and Ottsville; electrical contractor Wind Gap Electric Inc. of Wind Gap; mechanical contractor Tri-County Mechanical Inc. of Macungie; and plumbing contractor KC Mechanical Services Inc. of Mt. Bethel.

Also at the Feb. 19 meeting, the board approved an overnight trip to Detroit for the district’s cybersonics team, to participate in the First Robotics World Championship, starting Apr. 28.

The board also approved an overnight trip by middle school students in the watershed integration program, beginning June 6, to Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware, and Chincoteague Bay Field Station in Virginia, “to study marine ecology and the connection to our freshwater areas.”

In addition, the board approved an overnight trip for the Palisades High School Future Business Leaders to participate in the State Leadership Conference in Hershey, a large delegation that Heffernan characterized as “disproportionate” for a “small school like Palisades.”


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