EBENSBURG – A new multipurpose athletic field, upgraded turf stadium and energy conservation work that will bring air-conditioned classrooms are included in projects reviewed Tuesday by Central Cambria School Board.
An official vote is expected on about $19 million in construction and upgrades during the board's regular meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at the high school, Superintendent Jason Moore said.
"We are profiling what we are going to see on the agenda for Monday," Moore told the audience at the opening of Tuesday's special meeting.
The $7.5 million energy project comes with about $500,000 a year in guaranteed savings on utilities. It will convert much of the high school to natural gas from electric, and bring air conditioning to most classrooms in the high school and middle school. Both elementary schools will also receive upgrades to heating and lighting.
Upgrades and expansion of the outdoor athletic complex has been discussed for many years, board President Dennis Simmers said. A group of board members, volunteers and coaches has been working for the past year to develop a project for consideration.
"We really tried to keep in mind not only the needs of today, but really, looking out 10, 20 and 30 years for what the needs will be," volunteer group leader Randy Seymour said Tuesday.
"We tried to get the best facility at the cheapest price."
The proposed $9.7 million athletic complex project includes new visitor bleachers, expanded from 1,000 to 1,200 seats, and accessibility upgrades to the home bleachers that will reduce seating slightly, Moore said.
The track will be rebuilt with new asphalt and rubberized coating for all six lanes. A proposal to add two lanes proved too expensive, Moore said.
Stadium work will also include new lights on the existing poles, a new turf field and upgrades to restrooms, concession area and locker rooms.
More discussion Tuesday focused on the new multi-purpose field, where softball, baseball and soccer teams will play and others may practice. As proposed, the turf field will have lines for both soccer and baseball/softball and wiring for future lights, Moore explained.
"We have been playing baseball and softball in the daylight hours all these years," Simmers said. "We can probably struggle along a couple more years."
Estimated cost of lighting the multipurpose field is more than $500,000 for a five-pole configuration and more than $800,000 for a 10 pole configuration.
Athletic Director Randy Wilson and retired Athletic Director Ron Stempka both urged the board not to delay on the lights.
"I think it's foolish (not to include lighting)," Stempka said. "Think about the community being able to use it."
"This facility will be unmatched," Wilson said. "We can host more events. It helps everybody in the community.
"No one is going to have that with baseball and softball fields fully turfed."
Moore said he will present both lighting estimates as options during Monday's board meeting.
Simmers pointed out the district's mission is to provide safe education for students. He acknowledged that athletics and other extracurricular activities improve education.
"Can we give these kids the best education we can, before we put in this multipurpose field?" Simmers asked. "And can we afford it?"
Simmers asked building principals and program administrators if they had anything they needed to educate students. All said the school is up to date on technology and curriculum.
"I want a lot of things," high school Principal Christopher Santini said. "But in terms of needs, we have everything we need – and I think we have a lot of things we want."
High school students' education is impacted strongly by athletics and extracurriculars, Santini added.
Business Manager Mary Ann Kaschalk said the district is well positioned, financially, and will be able to take on the additional $16 million debt for the energy and athletic complex projects without a tax increase.
"It's a great time for borrowing money," Kaschalk said. "Interest rates are at a long-time low and there's no vision that they are going to go up.
"Everything is looking rosy with us, financially."