New two-story wing with 12-classrooms eyed; modular classrooms would be needed during construction

By Richard Ilgenfritz @rpilgenfritz on Twitter


New construction could be on the horizon for another Lower Merion School as school officials plan on taking their latest renovation project to the township next month.

Under a plan that was outlined at Monday night’s Board of School Director’s monthly business meeting, the district will propose expanding Bala Cynwyd Middle School by adding new classrooms and some cafeteria space.

The plan shows a new two-story wing with 12-classrooms located near where a small addition was put on the gym about two years ago. Modular classrooms would also be added for two years during the construction.

An additional 30-space parking area would be added to a field below the tennis courts that will have access from Manayunk Road.

Pat Guinnane, director of operations for Lower Merion School District, said they are planning on asking for permission, for zoning purposes, to combine a non-contiguous sports field with the school grounds so that it could be counted toward the impervious surface requirements.

Guinnane said one of the problems both Lower Merion middle schools have is getting students through the cafeteria serving lines in a timely manner. There is also limited seating space so increasing the cafeteria seating area is also being considered as part of the Bala Cynwyd expansion.

“We’re looking, as our enrollment grows, of having class sizes of roughly 400 or just over 400 students in each grade level,” Guinnane said. Because of that and with the schools planning to keep grade-level lunches, the district will need to find a way to get 400 students through the lunch line, give them a place to sit down and eat in the allotted time. Architects will look at both Bala Cynwyd an Welsh Valley middle schools in an attempt to solve the cafeteria problems, Guinnane said.

Under the schedule, the district plans to start the zoning application in January and simultaneously submit a request for a waiver of the land development plan so temporary classrooms can be put in one part of the track area by next summer to be ready for the fall of 2017.

District officials hope to have a decision from the zoning board sometime around March of 2017. Assuming they get the approval from the zoning board, they could then begin the land deployment process through Lower Merion Township. By December of 2017, they hope to have all of the approvals in place. The bidding of the project could begin in early 2018 and construction could continue through the summer of 2019.

According to Guinnane, the estimated cost of $11 to $13 million includes the six temporary classrooms, the expansion of the cafeteria and the 12 permanent classroom expansion.

Following the land development approval and then the final designs, they plan on about 15 months of construction with the new space available by the fall of the 2019-2020 school year. That same summer the temporary classrooms would be removed, he said.

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