The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

May 1, 2013

Ground broken for elementary school

Randy Griffith

JOHNSTOWN — With no speeches or high-profile dignitaries, groundbreaking ceremonies for the $13 million Conemaugh Valley Elementary School highlighted the school’s mission: The students.

Brief ceremonies Wednesday morning included the national anthem

performed by the Conemaugh Valley High School band and chorus, the Pledge of Allegiance led by elementary students and another number by the band.

But the low-key event did not diminish the importance of the new era it will represent for the district’s students, teachers and taxpayers, school board President Mark Vibostok said.

“It is very exciting,” Vibostok said. “It has been a long time in coming. A lot of planning and careful thought went into this.

“It is going to be a nice-looking asset for the community.”

Construction has been underway for about two months on the site of the former East Taylor Elementary School, which was closed in August 2011, school Superintendent Dave Lehman said.

All Conemaugh Valley pupils from prekindergarten through sixth grade are now attending the 40-year-old Conemaugh Township elementary school on Frankstown Road. But that school is facing major repairs and is slated for closure when the new school is completed in time for the 2014-2015 school year.

The new building fits on the same basic footprint as the old East Taylor school, but it will be a two-story structure, Lehman said.

“It’s about 60,000 square feet,” he said.

Located along William Penn Highway on the same East Taylor Township property as the high school, the new elementary school will consolidate all the district’s facilities, Lehman said.

“One campus should be more economical,” Lehman said. “We can share teachers. I think it will be a tremendous learning opportunity.”

The elementary school has been in the works for more than two years, prompted by large cuts in state funding for education.

It is being financed with bonds, with payments coming from revenue generated by 2011’s whopping 26 percent,

12-mill, property tax increase.

Despite the blow, community meetings have produced little negative feedback, Lehman said.

“We are happy with the community’s support,” he said.

“Anytime you put the kids first, it’s a win-win situation for everybody.”

Plans for the existing Frankstown Road school are still being considered, Vibostok said.

The district will probably try to sell the building and part of the property, but will hold on to the section containing several athletic fields that are used in its sports programs.

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