The Bethlehem Area School Board voted unanimously, 9-0, Monday night to authorize the design phase for a new Nitschmann Middle School in West Bethlehem, according to The Express Times.
The board opted for new construction at a cost of $53.7 million rather than pursue a third set of renovations for the existing 90-year-old building.
In addition to new construction, the board was looking at three renovation options that ranged in cost from $23.1 million to $48.4 million.
Back in January, board President Mike Faccinetto said he thought that building new was now the most pragmatic option. Though some questioned the cost, others on the board agreed.
“After taking a tour of the building, I do not think it is a proper learning environment,” said Director Shannon Patrick.
While the cost of construction shakes out to $60.52 a year for every school district taxpayer, the corresponding tax bills are not expected to increase by that amount as the district pays off other long-term construction debts.
That is one reason why Nitschmann construction is not due to start until 2015, which conceivably also gives the board some time to change its mind.
Nitschmann is the only middle school of four in the Bethlehem Area School District that has not been extensively renovated or replaced since the district began an aggressive capital improvement program 20 years ago.
New construction is expected to change the building’s footprint, but not its basic location at the corner of Eighth Avenue and Union Boulevard.