Next Up: Sheffield

The sign is up and the process is moving ahead.

And to the first two parts of the project, the state said okay.

The Warren County School District has received approval of PlanCon parts A and B from the Pennsylvania Department of Education for the expansion scheduled for Sheffield Area Middle High School as the district seeks to convert the facility into a K-12 school.

PlanCon, short for Planning and Construction Workbook, is the state process by which school district can have costs of expansions and renovations reimbursed.

Part A, according to PDE, “provides the description of a proposed project and the justification of its need.”

Part B is concerned with “Schematic Design” and is a “technical review conference of the conceptual drawings, site plan and educational specifications” for the proposed project. “The architect and a district administrator who is knowledgeable about the project and the educational program must be present at the schematic design conference.”

“We’re marching ahead,” Director of Buildings and Grounds Dr. Norbert Kennerknecht told the school district’s board of directors Monday night.

He indicated that while the project is moving forward, there have been some bumps along the way, including site and permitting issues.

A bid date, as well as a potential groundbreaking date, remain unclear.

The school board has also submitted PlanCon parts C, D and E to the state for approval. Part C and D were submitted with board approval in November and part E was passed by the board last month.

Kennerknecht indicated that part D should be “coming quickly.” He also indicated that C is only relevant for projects where the district will purchase property for a project, making it null and void at Sheffield.

The letters received from PDE announcing the approval reiterate that the district is also “conditionally approved” from an exemption to a PDE rule that disqualifies a project for state reimbursement “where the costs for alterations are less than 20 percent of the project building’s replacement value.”

While the letters indicate that the alterations only account for 17.93 percent, PDE has granted the district a variance to the 20 percent rule after a presentation on the condition of the building revealed that an entire renovation was not necessary to construct an elementary addition.

In other business Monday night, after presentation from officials with Warren General Hospital, the Rouse and the Warren YMCA, the board tabled a motion that would have authorized the school district to become involved in the hotly-contested non-profit tax exempt appeal process. The motion would have withheld the district from involvement on the procedural question whether the board of assessment appeals can revoke a non-profit corporation’s tax exempt status – yet would have allowed the district to participate in the appeal process only after the process was before the Court of Common Pleas.

“It is abundantly evident there’s going to be apparently a well-fought battle on the procedural question whether this is properly before the Court of Common Pleas,” Board President Arthur Stewart said. “Until that battle is fought out, isn’t this a moot question?”

Board Vice President Donna Zariczny said, “The procedural issue was one that kept bothering me when we were talking with the (Warren County) commissioners. The fight seemed like it was more about (the process.) That’s not a fight we should be fighting. (There’s) no rush to do anything.”