The fastest-growing school district in Lebanon and Lancaster counties is planning two new construction projects. Lebanon School District unveiled the pair of related projects as part of an ongoing plan, first drafted in 2006, to upgrade all seven buildings in the city district.
Under the new phase of the plan, the Lebanon School District intends to construct a new building in the city that will temporarily house sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade students. Then, once the historic and current Lebanon Middle School building is renovated, seventh and eighth-graders will be housed in the new building, leaving the city’s fifth and sixth-grade students to attend the middle school.
Currently, sixth, seventh and eighth-grade students in the city attend Lebanon Middle School at 350 N. Eighth St., and fifth-graders attend elementary schools.
It should be noted here that the new phase of the project is very much in the planning stages, and many of the details of the two building projects are still being worked out.
“There was already a plan in place to renovate all seven buildings in the school district,” Lebanon superintendent Arthur Abrom said. “It’s an ongoing effort. What kind of changed is that we’re now over-enrolled. We’re over 100 percent capacity at the middle school and at 98 percent capacity in our elementary schools. For the last 10 or 15 years, 10 of our middle school classes have met in five modular structures set up outside of the building. The original desire to just remodel the middle school just didn’t make sense.”
Lebanon School District will conduct its second public town hall meeting about the proposed projects in the high school’s Starr Auditorium at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, July 1.
The school district staged a similar town hall meeting back on June 15.
“We want the public to be informed. That’s why the town hall meeting is important,” said Abrom, who has been Lebanon’s superintendent for four years. “At this point, we want to encourage people to participate in the process by attending the town hall meeting. This can impact the community for 20-25 years to come. But we are out of space.”
“We want to present the idea of building a new building and renovating the middle school,” Abrom continued. “Renovating the middle school alone doesn’t address the capacity issues. We will need to get all the kids out of the middle school to renovate the building. You can’t renovate a building with 1,200 kids in it.”
The Lebanon school board is expected to vote on the two new building projects at meetings in July or August. Abrom declined to estimate the impact the building projects might have on city taxpayers, but he did note the current increased costs of lumber and building materials.
“Some of it will depend on the estimation of the buildings’ square footage,” said Abrom. “But one of the things the districts does well is save as much money as we can. Some of the funds will come from savings and ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) funds. So the public won’t shoulder the entire costs.”
To this point, six of the seven school buildings in the Lebanon School District have undergone major renovations since the initial plan was implemented in 2006. The only one that hasn’t recently is one of the district’s oldest buildings, the middle school, which was constructed in 1937.
“Over the last 10 or 15 years, we’ve gone from 4,500 kids (in the school district) to 5,300 kids,” said Abrom. “The student population is growing for two reasons. More and more people want to move into the city. It’s growing for economic reasons, because people can get a greater standard of living. When you think of eight or nine hundred students, that’s a building.”
Within the current framework, most of the planning for the two building projects would occur during the 2021-22 school year. Construction of the new building and the renovation of the current Lebanon Middle School would take about two years. The new building and the renovated middle school could be completed as early as the 2024-25 school year, when the new student enrollment and building assignments would go into effect.
“We haven’t made decisions yet,” said Abrom. “The planning is when all the details will come out. We’ll take the 2021-22 school year to plan, before we put a shovel in the ground. The following two years will be when we build. The plan is to build the new building first, so we have a place to put the kids while the middle school is being renovated.”
“We are in the infant stages of the project,” added Abrom. “We are simply looking at the impact a new building would have on a property, will it fit here or will it fit there. There are also zoning issues to consider.”
For 32 years, the current Lebanon Middle School served as the school district’s high school, before the current Lebanon High School building at 1000 S. Eighth St. was constructed in 1969. The current Lebanon High School last underwent major renovations in 2013.
The current Lebanon Middle School is one of the oldest educational buildings in Lebanon County. Over the years, it has served as a hub for the Lebanon city community, especially for its northside residents.
“It’s iconic, in the sense that it was once our high school,” said Abrom. “You also have Lebanon Alumni Stadium there. It’s in the city and it’s a hub of the city. We just want to renovate it to keep it the iconic building that it already is.”
To RSVP or to ask questions about the meeting, call 717-270-6711 or email email@example.com.
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Note: An earlier version of the article incorrectly identified the middle school building as the oldest in the district. This error has been corrected.