At the meeting, it was revealed that the total current estimate for repairs to the school—which was built in 1950—is about $2.68 million.
Among the major building systems in need of upgrade are:
- Sewage system
- Handicapped accessibility
"These are not things that my predecessors put off," he told an audience of about 80 people at Southern Lehigh High School.
Repairs to Hopewell Elementary School are also urgently needed, and could carry a much higher price tag than the ones needed at Lower Milford, Bergey explained.
Built in 1970, Hopewell has not had any major renovations since it opened.
That is why it now needs about $12 million in upgrades, including work on many interdependent systems, such as electrical, lighting, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, plumbing and decking, Bergey said.
Complicating the picture and potentially raising the price tag at Hopewell is the fact that the major systems are intertwined within the walls of the building or inside the concrete slab that's under it, he said.
"The needs of this building are so extensive we will have to close the building for at least a year to make the repairs," he added.
Bergey discussed five options that have been identified for work being completed at one or both of the schools:
- Option A: Execute a 10-year capital plan and repair both schools.
- Option B: Repair Hopewell and then demolish Lower Milford.
- Option C: Renovate Hopewell and then close Lower Milford.
- Option D: Demolish the current Hopewell, build a new Hopewell and close Lower Milford.
- Option E: Demolish the current Hopewell, build a new Hopewell and repair Lower Milford.
However, that assertion, along with Bergey's comment that "probably the least amount of disruption (to students) would be (Option) D," did not sit well with some of the Lower Milford parents and teachers who spoke at the meeting.
Lower Milford second grade teacher and district resident Lori Downey said the school's small size should be cherished, rather than viewed as a detriment.
She questioned why parents and other members of the Lower Milford community hadn't been invited to be a part of the committee that formulated the five options presented at the meeting.
“I just want people to be aware that maybe options D and E aren’t the only options," she said to the board. "I just want you to know how people are feeling."
Board and facilities committee member Corinne Gunkle said she was happy to hear the feedback, and told Downey that input from the public was "the reason we are having this meeting."
Her fellow facilities committee member, James Lindsay, later encouraged those who had attended the meeting to attend a future committee meeting.
"Just like a school board meeting, please come and voice your opinion," he said.
Those meetings are held at 4 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month.
School board president Jeffrey Dimmig stressed that the meeting represented "the beginning of a process," and that "there (are) no decisions that have been made at all."
Another concern about Lower Milford Elementary School was raised by Mike Snovitch, a member of the township's Board of Supervisors who said he was asked to speak by township manager Ellen Koplin.
Snovitch told the school board that the elementary school in the township is designated as "a primary disaster shelter," and fills a critical need as the only building in Lower Milford that is large enough to bear that designation.
Missy Greenwald, another Lower Milford teacher and parent, summed up the sentiments expressed by many at the meeting when she told the board that "whenever you talk about closing a school, it hurts."
"I moved here to go to a small, rural school for my boys to go to," she said. "Nobody wants Hopewell to close. Nobody wants Lower Milford to close."
Photo: Southern Lehigh School District Director of Support Services Todd Bergey discusses options identified for both Hopewell and Lower Milford Elementary Schools, which need millions of dollars in upgrades and repairs.