In the not so near future a Hatboro-Horsham intermediate or middle school and new administration building could be housed on land currently owned by the federal government.
During its meeting Monday, the school board and the standing-room-only crowd heard a presentation from consultant Bonnie Sowers of E.I. Associates concerning three possible options to address efficient use of schools, facility maintenance needs and declining enrollment.
Two of the possibilities involve acquiring 60 acres of the “surplus” 892 acres at the Willow Grove Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base and building either a new middle school there; or constructing a new intermediate school for fifth and sixth grades on the base property. Those projects, which include upgrades at all district schools, are projected to cost about $75 million.
The board took no action on Monday, but Superintendent Curtis Griffin said the board would review the options and vote during its March 21 meeting on whether or not to submit a proposal to the Horsham Land Reuse Authority seeking the acreage. The deadline for submitting a notice of interest is March 22. From there, the HLRA – the group charged with leading the site’s redevelopment – would work with consultant RKG Associates in determining the best uses for the property. A redevelopment plan would need to be submitted to the Department of Defense by December.
But, just because an entity requests some of the land, doesn’t mean the HLRA, or the relevant government agencies will ok the land transfer. Even though the HLRA had no submissions as of Friday, Board President Barbara LaSorsa said the land acquisition process is competitive.
“You have to make a case,” she said, adding that a new school is not on the near horizon. “We just want to get (the land).”
Because the district falls under the “public benefit conveyance” category, land could be granted free of charge, or at dramatically reduced costs. The district would need to build a school within 30 years of land acquisition.
Griffin pointed out that the land transfer and the building project are years, if not decades, away.
“There is no sewer system on the base. There is no water system on the base,” Griffin said. “It is a very, very long process that will have to take place, including a significant amount of funding.”
After the meeting, Griffin said the 60-acre land calculation was based on a state formula and also takes into account space for field use.
A closer look at Hatboro-Horsham’s options, as presented to the board Monday:
- Option A: Maintain existing buildings with renovations and upgrades. Estimated cost: $55.9 million.
- Option B: Reconfigure the district’s grade structure so elementary schools house students in kindergarten through fourth-grade. Additions would be made to Blair Mill, Crooked Billet and Pennypack, and a new “intermediate” school to house fifth and sixth grades would be built at the air base. Simmons Elementary School would be converted into a middle school for seventh and eighth grades. The high school would remain the same. A new district administration building would be built at the former air base. The current Keith Valley Middle School building would be left open as a back-up facility should additional development at the base lead to an increase in enrollment. Estimated cost: $75.4 million.
- Option C: Build a new middle school at the former air base and make basic upgrades to elementary school buildings, without changing grade configuration. A new district administration building would also be built at the former air base. The current Keith Valley Middle School building would be left open as a back-up facility should additional development lead to an increase in enrollment. Estimated cost: $74.4 million.