Ringgold begins design phase for new middle school

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NEW EAGLE – Ringgold School District will design a new middle school building next to its Carroll Township high school, even though funding its construction remains an issue to resolve.


Ringgold School Board directed the district’s engineering firm, HHSDR Architects & Engineers of Pittsburgh, to begin drafting plans for the building Wednesday, shortly before directors adopted a 2014-15 budget that raises real estate taxes three mills, two of which will be set aside for construction projects.


“The time to act is now,” board President Mariann Bulko said, putting an end to rumors the district would reopen aging, closed elementary schools in Monongahela and Donora to serve as middle schools.


Bulko said she “couldn’t imagine” any parents wanting their children inside those buildings.


The Monongahela building has been broken into several times, and its asbestos was compromised in one break-in to the point where the board voted Wednesday to spend $9,400 to remove that hazardous material. The last break-in in early May resulted in five arrests and prompted the district to once again seal the building.


The asbestos problem also will delay the auction to sell the school on Chess Street until after Prism Responses Inc. of Export removes the asbestos in the boiler room that was damaged while people were stealing copper pipe for scrap.


The board, meanwhile, amended the resolution to sell the building to include an option for New Cingular Wireless to erect a cellphone tower where the playground once stood at the Monongahela school, a deal that would earn the district $30,000. Board Vice President William Stein Jr. said the monthly income from leasing the site to the company might make the old school more attractive to a potential buyer of the property. Stein said the tower would also need approval from Monongahela City Council before it could be built.


A Ringgold tax increase had been anticipated in the weeks before the board adopted the new, $40.9 million budget at a time when the district is negotiating a new teacher contract.


With the two-mill increase heading into the construction fund, Ringgold will have a total of five mills of property taxes directed to that account, and it would need as many as nine mills there to begin building a middle school at a cost that would exceed $25 million.


Stein said he doubted the state will ever begin subsidizing school construction projects again as the existing program is heavily in debt and under a moratorium.


In other business Wednesday, the board named Gregory Locy as Ringgold Middle School assistant principal at a salary of $75,000 a year and Lenni Nedley as director of curriculum, earning $77,000 a year. Sherry Castaneda-Black was named principal of Ringgold Elementary School South at a salary of $80,000 a year, and James Klugh was hired as assistant high school principal to be paid $70,000 a year.


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