PENN—Avon Grove School Board has decided not to accept a $1.368 million grant that would end up costing the district $600,000 or more.

It was the consensus of the Board at their Tues., April 30 Committee of the Whole meeting to turn down the ACE grant from the state. The money from the grant is specifically designated to be used to achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold Certification for green building and energy efficiency at their new high school building project.

The district has applied for $2 million in grant money, which was calculated to cover the costs of green energy features at the new building. The lower amount awarded by the state would still require the same amount of work to be done, leaving the district to pay the balance.

Superintendent Christopher Marchese explained that the grant would not have reduced the cost of the construction project, which is targeted not to exceed $127 million. “That ACE grant was designed to supplement funds. We do not see that it’s cost beneficial to move forward,” he said. “None the less the building will be developed with a highly efficient system.”

The board, which has been divided over many aspects of the building project was in agreement about this one. “It’s disappointing, but it’s a lot of money and we don’t have those kind of dollars,” Board Member Rick Dumont said.

Value Engineering was the main topic of the meeting, with discussion of the process being used to identify potential cost savings as the design for the new building is underway. Some cost saving changes are being worked into the design while others are structured so that they can be deducted from the project. There is also a list of additions being developed that may be added to the project if the budget allows.

One of the potential deductions on the list is the elimination of an auxiliary gym that could save $2.4 million. Auditorium sizing, the inclusion of a field house, the size of the track, and an early learning center for pre-Kindergarten students are among the items that may or may not be in the final design.

A proposal that sparked questions was the idea to break off the construction of the loop road that will access the building and make it a separate project. The impetus for the split is the long wait for PennDOT permits that will be required for the road, typically a year. If kept as part of the high school construction, the delay in getting road permits could delay the start of the building construction.

Concerns were expressed that going forward with building prior to getting the road permit could result in unexpected cost over runs if PennDOT required unexpected changes to the road, The board was reassured that PennDOT will lay out its requirements early in the permitting process, so the costs will be known.

At the beginning of the meeting, the board discussed the STEM classes they toured at the High School recently. Adding more space for hands on work in wood, metal, and advanced materials is one of the goals of the new construction, It was reported that less than half of the students who request one of these classes are able to do so because of limited classroom space.

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