PHILIPSBURG — Work continues on renovations to change North Lincoln Hill Elementary into Philipsburg-Osceola Middle School, but some questions are beginning to come up about the future of the current junior high building.
At a school board meeting Tuesday, the administration and board responded to demands by Philipsburg to be informed of the districts intentions for the current junior high. According to board member Elizabeth Whitehead, the district received a letter requesting details of future plans by Oct. 15.
At the moment, there are no plans, said board members and staff. The building is still in use, and will continue to serve students through June 2013. If construction plans remain on schedule, the seventh and eighth grades will move to the middle school for the beginning of the 2013-14 school year.
District spokesperson Dena Cipriano said that attempts to involve the borough in discussions have not been productive. However, Philipsburg Councilwoman Barbara Gette regularly attends school board meetings and said she has been in attendance at several meetings where it has been discussed.
We need to be prepared. We need some answers about what your intentions at the end of the day are, she told the board.
The old Philipsburg Elementary on 9th Street was closed when the new school was constructed in 2005. No formal discussions about plans for disposal of the building were entered with the borough at that time. The building was sold to private parties shortly after the closing. Wallaceton-Boggs Elementary, however, was leased to other parties after its closing in 2006, but is now vacant while the district decides on its future.
Solicitor Winifred Jones-Wenger said the district has no legal obligation to comply with the boroughs request or its deadline. Legally, the district may pursue several different options for disposing of the property when the time comes, including sale to parties that express interest, an online auction, sealed bids, a traditional auction or giving the property to a municipality or nonprofit organization.
One option proposed by a consultant in the past included demolition of the school building to create a green space in the middle of the Philipsburg residential area where it sits.
Gette said the borough might consider accepting ownership of the property to maintain such green space, but only after demolition, which was estimated at $3 million in the past.
We dont have the money for that, she said.