SPECIAL MEETING Board weighs options for renovations

A resident accused the district of rushing the project to avoid a referendum.
NEW CASTLE, Pa. -- The New Castle Board of Education will have a special meeting Aug. 25 to consider taking out a $20 million line of credit for school renovations.
Board members agreed Wednesday night to give more study to two renovation options that would consolidate grades one through three into the Ben Franklin Junior High School building.
Junior high pupils are moving to the new junior-senior high school on East Lincoln Avenue in 2005, leaving the Ben Franklin building vacant.
The first option would make Lockley School the district kindergarten center. Kennedy, Thaddeus Stevens and West Side schools would close.
In the other option, Lockley School would be closed and Kennedy School would be the kindergarten center.
The Croton Avenue building would be the pre-kindergarten center in both options and grades four, five and six would continue to attend classes at George Washington Intermediate School.
The projected cost of the first option is $18,159,000. The second one is expected to cost $17,621,000.
Residents' concerns
Visitors at Wednesday's meeting accused school officials of rushing the project to circumvent a new law going into effect Sept. 3 that would require a voter referendum for any large school projects.
"I'm in favor of consolidation, especially if it saves the taxpayers money, but this seems to be a rush," said Phil Conti of Euclid Avenue.
Conti said he thinks the district lacks the confidence in the voters to take the issue to a referendum.
Schools Superintendent George Gabriel noted the district has been considering this consolidation for the last eight months.
Schools business manager Joe Ambrosini said they have a tentative agreement to get the line of credit from Sky Bank. He said they will later take out loans through bond issues when the project begins and pay off the line of credit with the bond proceeds.

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