James Boyle, the Wire
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors gave the green light to Council Rock last week to begin its $55 million project to construct a new Newtown Middle School on the same grounds as the current school.
A 4–1 vote gave preliminary and final approval to the land development plans, allowing the engineering team to prepare paperwork for the bidding process to start around Jan. 26. The lone holdout was supervisor Mike Gallagher, who was willing to grant preliminary approval but wanted more time to go study a few outstanding issues, mainly the traffic patterns on Green Lane and Newtown Richboro Road.
“This plan received two full reviews from the planning commission and the traffic board,” said supervisor Jennifer Dix. “It has been fully vetted by staff, and I am comfortable approving preliminary as final.”
With recent mass shootings in Colorado and California fresh on his mind, supervisor Phil Calabro did not want to waste an opportunity to make sure the school’s safety features and procedures are properly configured and deployed. Council Rock officials agreed to a last-minute stipulation that the Newtown Township police department will review Newtown Middle School’s security measures.
“This is our time to set an example that this building will be rock solid from a security standpoint,” said Calabro. “From what you’ve said, it seems like it will be somewhat secure, but I bet you I could go into that building and you won’t even know who I am.”
The other supervisors expressed support for the project as a whole, commenting that the upgrades have been a long time coming.
“It looks like a great and overdue project,” said Ryan Gallagher, chairman of the board of supervisors. “It looks like the final product will be really nice. I’m confident the new school will be a great learning environment for our kids.”
The new 186,000-square-foot, two-story building will be constructed behind the current school at 116 Richboro Road, allowing class to continue during the estimated two years of construction. When the new school is completed, estimated for summer 2018, the old building will be demolished.
“This is a great opportunity to upgrade the middle school without any restrictions from the project site,” said Council Rock Superintendent Dr. Robert Fraser. “We won’t have to do any phased construction that might disrupt the students. We can build exactly to the specifications from the architects.”
Requests for bids to construct renovations and upgrades to Holland Middle School are estimated to go out just weeks after the Newtown Middle School requests. When both projects are complete, Dr. Fraser said, the learning experiences at both schools will be basically identical.
“Fundamentally, students will receive the same levels of programming and resources at both schools,” said Dr. Fraser.
Earlier in the meeting, Ryan Gallagher urged Newtown residents to take part in an online survey regarding the township’s trail network. Plans are to move forward within the next year to make upgrades and connections to the Newtown trails, and input from the taxpayers is crucial to the process, Gallagher said.
For more information, visit www.newtown.pa.us.