By Susan L. Serbin

Times Correspondent

SPRINGFIELD >> As the school year begins on Sept. 3, business will be very much as usual with teaching, learning, educational and social experiences.

Springfield High School students in the Class of 2020 will celebrate the culmination of their public school education. They will also mark the final year of the existing building, and have the unique opportunity to see, rising on the campus, a state-of-the-art facility that will take students to the next century.

The project, known as the High School Master Plan, was a decade in the making. Over the course of the 10 years, the process included five well-attended town hall meetings; multiple appearances before the school board; presentations, applications and approvals by township planners and commissioners.

After consideration of alternatives, the board chose the portion of district-owned property on South Rolling Road at the SEPTA rail line. Selection of architects, engineers, construction management and other professionals began within the last several years.

During the 2018-19 school year, construction began on the school of just under 250,000 square feet; the stadium was demolished during the summer; and the main gym was taken down. By the end of summer 2019, the steel structure has been largely completed, and the building is expected to be “under roof” as soon as conditions warrant.

Without question, cost and financing were among the primary interest to the board, and the general public. Strategies had been long considered and put into place in the early years of project conception to mitigate sharp tax increases. These successful measures have been available to and shared with taxpayers.

Those cost estimates and financing information referenced are contained in the district’s (April 2018) Act 34 Hearing document required by the Pennsylvania Department of Education prepared by project architects Schrader Group in association with Perkins + Will. The detailed figures are submitted and, to a great extend, lock in certain parameters the district will meet.

When considering the total cost, it is essential to consider the “master plan” as a whole. In the Act 34 Hearing document the summary of the project describes the work as including, but not limited to the following: demolition of the existing high school and grounds building; a new three-story school with an administrative offices; a maintenance building; parking lots; a stadium and track; six tennis courts; and four additional playing fields. The listing also included bus facilities, but the district has been actively pursuing options to preclude the need for onsite bus parking and maintenance.

Also important is that the planning, design and engineering of the master plan has paid particular attention to parking fields and circulation within the campus, access and egress, drop off locations and impact of the school and location to the overall neighborhoods. The district worked extensively with St. Francis of Assisi Parish to accommodate requests for setbacks, buffering and routing school traffic around its property. Adjacent neighbors were also heard, resulting in the closure of through traffic on a portion of Speakman Drive and Wyndmoor Road.

The structure-specific cost is estimated at $96 million including construction insurance. Architect’s/engineering fees have a $6.4 million estimate; movable fixtures and equipment are listed at about $2.5 million, bringing cost to about $105 million.

The balance of about $30 million is related to the entire site preparation and demolition of the high school including asbestos abatement and removal.

In terms of financing, Executive Director Don Mooney said, “To date, the district has issued $74.7 million in new bonds for the high school for Series 2015-2018. We are working on the 2019 Series for $30 million, and the remaining approximately $32 million will be issued over 2020 and 2021.”

In both school and community concerns, South Rolling Road has been reopened after reconfiguration for future parking and campus access. High school operations are not expected to have any significant changes other than removal of the gym and stadium. The Springfield Cougars “home” football games will be played at Strath Haven High School with the cooperation of the Wallingford Swarthmore School District, and the good fortune of Strath Haven’s Panthers being away all of those dates.

Residents, taxpayers and other interested parties can continue to see updates at the district website www.ssdcougars.org. The Master Plan tab is on the top banner and includes a link for all previous business and questions to the district.

School Director Kevin Keenan said those who want more information and involvement are welcome to attend the Facilities Committee meetings (6:30 p.m., second Thursday of the month) which continues to focus much of its attention on the master plan.

Alumni may have opportunities to contribute through naming rights and other options as programs are put in place through the Springfield Area Education Foundation.

As the facility rises, takes shape and comes to fruition September 2020, the school family will have a state-of-the-art facility to advance the district’s three pillars of academics, athletics and the arts, and reflect the values of the community.

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