could have a new address if the Hatboro-Horsham School Board opts to follow through on a plan aimed at acquiring government property for free.
District officials, during a facilities committee meeting held this week, discussed the possibility of demolishing the , as well as the shuttered Army Reserve Center on Route 611 and constructing a new elementary school on the land, which is slated to be transferred from the military to the school district.
Originally the district had requested the land - which is situated across the road from NASJRB Willow Grove – for additional playing fields and to expand the district’s transportation area bus garage and relocate maintenance equipment, Superintendent Curtis Griffin said.
But, using the land for those purposes, as compared to a school, would cost the district $300,000 in land acquisition fees, officials said. The government would donate the land to Hatboro-Horsham free of charge if the district vows to build a school on the site within 30 years.
And, while Griffin said getting started on the long-range construction project is at least two years away, the time to get the ball rolling is now. Griffin said that within the next 30 to 60 days the board would need to recertify its position with regard to future use of the land.
“We’re at a point where we’ve got to fish or cut bait on that property,” Bob Reichert, director of Business Affairs told the board. “We have to submit a proposal, or we lose the land. Right now our best thinking is a school rather than playing fields.”
Hallowell Principal Steve Glaize said building the school elsewhere would allow for construction without disruptions for the kindergarten through fifth-grade school’s roughly 300 students. Glaize said the district should “be cautious, but take advantage of the opportunity.”
Reichert said he will begin the process of formulating costs, financing and the associated tax impact in the coming weeks. Even with the construction costs being one of many unknowns, Griffin said the board’s goal is to maintain all construction below the Act 1 index, which for 2012 is a 1.7 percent increase.
“There’s a lot of unknowns, but we’re going to work through it and try to make some really good decisions,” Griffin said. “Right now the goal is to study, collect all of the information that we can to do due diligence and develop a long-term facilities plan.”
That plan, Griffin said, would address the district’s facilities needs for the next 20 to 30 years.
The possibility of demolishing Hallowell and building anew first came to light in the district’s feasibility studies, which were conducted several years ago, Griffin said. Another option that evolved was the need for a new middle school. The district plans to address that by of the Willow Grove air base and constructing a middle school there as the base property is redeveloped during the next 15 to 20 years.
Central to the base reuse are plans for 1,400 to 1,500 mixed-use residential units, which, coupled with other in Horsham, adds more uncertainties to the district's future pupil population.
“We have to be thinking about how do we dovetail the growth in our facilities with what’s happening on the base,” Griffin said. “It takes several years to bring a school on the market.”