Solanco Feasibility Study

Feasibility Option Recommendation

After almost two years of studying various aspects of the needs of the school district, and analyzing a number of options to meet those needs, the administration recommended the following option for further study and action by the school board at the August 9, 2010 school board meeting.

The board accepted the recommendation to further explore this option. This, in effect, completes this portion of the feasibility study, the purpose of which was to determine was action would best meet the district’s identified needs.

The board has directed the Building and Grounds Committee to now examine the information and propose a course of action for the next step in the process. The board also approved a topographical study for the Smith Middle School site. This study is a necessary step to get accurate detailed information on the Smith site that will be critical for any decisions the board will make on this matter.

The process will entail further discussion and analysis about the components of this option. The approval of the recommendation is not a commitment to construction, but rather a focus for study and discussion on the best way to proceed with this option to meet the district’s needs.

The recommended option for further study is as follows:

Option 8 (with some slight variation*) which has four K-5 elementary schools, one 6-8 middle school (located at present site of Smith MS) and one 9-12 high school.

Bart-Colerainmaintain2 CR/GL300 FTE
Providencemaintain3 CR/GL450 FTE
Quarryvillemaintain3 CR/GL450 FTE
Clermontrenovate4 CR/GL600 FTE (add Spec. Ed.)
Smithrenovate6 teams900 FTE
High Schoolmaintain1550 FTE (convert CR to SP ED)
Swift Middle Schoolrenovatemove district office operations to Swift site
District Officemaintain/renovaterun district programs, professionaldevelopment, specialprojects in this space

* This option would require examination of the following modifications to the original option:

  • Some special education classes presently housed at Providence Elementary School would move to Clermont. This would provide some building capacity at Providence Elementary School.
  • A portion of Quarryville Elementary attendance area would be re-districted to bring some of those students to Clermont. This will then provide building capacity at Quarryville Elementary School. Because Bart-Colerain is presently at 2 classes per grade level, redistricting would not be practical there to reduce the number of classrooms per grade level.
  • Move district office operations to Swift site, leaving the District Office building for renovation as a technology center, center for district-wide programming, and a center for professional development.

The reasons for this recommendation:

  1. This option has overwhelming administrative support.
  2. There is an economy-of-scale in the middle level program, which will provide the opportunity for more efficient programming. There will be no need to replicate programs at two sites.
  3. The middle level curriculum and programming will maintain a greater level of consistency.
  4. This will provide the opportunity not only for grade level teaming, but also for content area teaming.
  5. This option brings the students of the school district together into one cohort per grade level in the middle level, which will provide great opportunity to build class cohesion. This will prove beneficial when transitioning to the high school because the transition will be only one of location, and not one that requires a blending of two cohorts.
  6. It will be possible to create a “small school” feel through teaming and grade-level “houses” to maintain the positive “small school” atmosphere we presently have while also taking advantage of the resources and support personnel that would now be located in one site.
  7. Redistricting and moving special education classes to Clermont will address the need for increased building capacity at Providence and Quarryville Elementary schools.
  8. Moving all middle level students to one site will eliminate some of the issues we presently face with a middle school and elementary school sharing a facility.
  9. This is an opportunity to upgrade some of the facilities for a middle level, specifically the area that will serve to facilitate the performing arts (drama, music), technology, and career exploration.
  10. This will provide more flexibility in student scheduling.
  11. This plan will address the security issues at Smith, Swift/Clermont and District Office. It will also make it easy to address the security issues at QE.
  12. This will maintain all of the district office operations in one area.
  13. This option will prove to be the most cost-efficient for transportation.
  14. This option lends itself well to phasing: renovations on Smith can occur, and then we can move students from Swift to the single middle school. Renovations at Clermont can occur which will entail encroaching on some of Swift’s footprint. Redistricting and movement of special education classes can occur. Then the renovations of Swift to accommodate district office operations can occur while the district office can continue operations at 121 S. Hess Street, until renovations are completed.
  15. By moving the district office operations to Swift Middle School site, the district office building now becomes a facility to support district programs, such as a technology center, and a location for district wide professional development.

Public provides input on three options

The well-attended public meeting on the Solanco School District’s Feasibility Study on June 21 featured lots of interesting questions and thought-provoking discussion. About 65 people attended the public meeting which began with a presentation by Solanco Superintendent Dr. Martin Hudacs that recapped the on-going feasibility study.

A two-year process of review and discussion, including several public meetings, has narrowed the study to three options that would best address the district’s current and future needs, which include additional classroom space, energy efficiency in our schools, and enhanced school security.

When asked if renovation and/or construction involved in the options would result in future tax increases, Solanco Business Manager Tim Shrom explained that tax increases are not expected to be necessary because the district has retired much of the debt incurred for past project.

Other questions and issues that were addressed by Solanco School Board members and

administrators at the meeting included state-mandated special education services that require additional classroom space in the district, the impact of Pennsylvania’s Act 1 on how the district manages it revenue and funding, and energy efficiency impacting government reimbursement for any project that is done.

Following are the three feasibility study options that were discussed at the meeting:

Option 1: Expand/renovate Clermont Elementary School and Swift Middle School, as well as Smith Middle School. Estimated cost is $64.7-million.

Option 7: Use elementary schools for kindergarten through 4th grade, renovate Swift Middle School for 5th and 6th grades, and renovate Smith Middle School for 7th and 8th grades. Estimated cost is $61.7-million.

Option 8: Clermont Elementary would expand into part of Swift Middle School, and the rest of Swift would be used for district offices and programs. The option would have four K-5 elementary schools (with Clermont expanded), and Smith would be renovated and expanded to be the only middle school in the district (grades 6, 7 and 8). Estimated cost is $61.3-million.

The study is being led by architect Jim Lewis who conducted a building analysis on each Solanco school and other district facilities. The study has also featured research by demographer Dr. Shelby Stewman from Carnegie Mellon University that developed a comprehensive understanding of the district and its population trends.

Questions and comments on the feasibility study, and opinions on the options, can be emailed to

Now We Are Down to Three Options

Between November 2009 and January 2010, the architect had met with the district administration and school board to examine the various options presented in the feasibility study. The primary question addressed was: How well does each option meet the needs, both present and future, that the district has identified?
As a result of those meetings, two additional options were added. One was an option turning Swift Middle School into a Grade 5-6 center for the district, and Smith Middle School becoming a Grade 7-8 center for the district. The other option would house one middle school, Grades 6-8, at Smith Middle School, and convert Swift for use for district programs and offices.
At the school board meeting on January 18, 2010, the board heard all 8 options and was able to discuss each one.

  • Option 1: Status quo – expanding Clermont; renovation Smith and Swift; DO goes to first floor of Smith
  • Option 2: K-1 (QE and new school); 2-5 (Clermont, Prov. B-C); 6-8 (Smith and Swift renovated); district office (portion to QE)
  • Option 3: 6th grade center K-5 (Bart) Clermont K-2, Swift 3-5; QE 6th grade center; Smith renovated, 7-8; DO portion to QE
  • Option 4: K-3 (B-C, Clermont, Prov, QE); 4-6 (Swift, Smith) 7-8 (new building); DO portion to QE
  • Option 5: K-1 (QE, Swift); 2-5 (B-C, Clermont; Prov); 6-8 (Smith, new building); DO (move to Swift)
  • Option 6: K-4 (B-C, Prov, QE, new bldg); 5-8 (Smith and addition; Clermont/Swift); DO (portion to QE)
  • Option 7: K-4 (B-C, QE, Prov, Clermont); 5-6 (Swift); 7-8 (Smith); DO (portion into QE)
  • Option 8: K-5 (B-C; Prov, QE, Clermont renovated); 6-8 (Smith renovation); DO (Swift/QE)

Following that January 18 meeting, the architect met with the district administration to analyze the programmatic advantages and disadvantages of each option. The administration followed a protocol created by the architect to assess the impact on educational programs, short- and long-term district goals, and flexibility of design.

  • At the school board meeting on March 15, 2010, the administration presented its perspective on the program implications of each option. Upon discussion, some common themes emerged:
    K-4 offers a lot of positive options as an elementary configuration
  • Keep the middle schools small, if possible
  • Watch the impact that any option would have on transportation costs
  • Changing the configurations could increase the need for more administrators and staffing
  • The more transitions created, then the greater the impact on related arts and special education
  • Watch the impact a change in configuration would have on pupil services, such as guidance counselors, nurses, etc.
  • Be aware of the compatibility of configuration and the new certification requirements
  • Concern expressed for 5th graders riding bus with high school students
  • Grades 1 and 2 should not be split
  • Literacy development extended to 6th grade is a positive opportunity

When looking at the options that presented the strongest positive impact on programs and student achievement, the administration and board recommended focusing on Options 1, 7 and 8 for further study.

None of these options require new construction. Options 7 and 8 would create district-wide schools earlier in a student’s career than presently exists. That is, Option 7 would have a district wide Grade 5-6 building, district wide Grade 7-8 building, and district wide Grade 9-12 building. Option 8 would have a district wide Grade 6-8 building.

The next step in the process is to look at some hard costs and implications to support services (e.g. transportation, food services, maintenance, energy, etc.) of the design of schools in this option. The district will also hold a public meeting to describe the three options that we are further studying.

Below are a couple links with information about the the study:

Solanco Feasibility Study Kickoff Presentation (5MB)

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