Facilities Update from Dr. Eshbach
These Old “Houses”
Dr. Eric Eshbach, Superintendent
Northern York County School District
When I began my work with the Northern York County School District in August 2012, the phrase I heard repeatedly from community members, staff members, parents, and alumni was, “What are you going to do with the old middle school?” Early in my tenure, we formed a task force to examine what could be done to appropriately utilize what has been named the Sports and Learning Center. I actually joked that I rarely saw sports or learning taking place in the nearly vacant building and that its acronym, the SLC, should be changed to the “OMG.” Some recommended that we tear it down, but after spending a significant amount of money to replace the HVAC and electrical systems just a few years earlier, it seemed as if we owed it to the taxpayers of Northern to do something constructive. I am proud to report that we have done just that!
Early plans generated by the task force in 2013 included childcare, fitness, and food service facilities. However, the cost of renovating for those purposes was prohibitive. When the old Dillsburg Elementary at 149 S. Baltimore Street, which was being used for the District’s Administration Offices, began to demand repairs of a significant financial commitment, the School Board agreed to enact the first stage of renovations at the SLC. Our new Administration Offices were completed early in 2016 and we now use the old library, shops, and science classrooms for all administrative services, including our business, transportation, technology, psychology, and printing services. We have a large group area that is used for school board meetings and staff trainings. It is with great relief that I am able to announce that we have officially sold the old administration building and the proceeds from that sale have been designated to help offset the cost of our new facility. A debt of gratitude goes out to our realtor, Paul Hayes, a community member and Northern parent, for his diligence in getting that property sold.
This month also marks the completion of renovations to the old cafeteria of the SLC into an athletic training and fitness area. We have entered a lease agreement with Drayer Physical Therapy Institute, LLC to operate this facility. All of the money generated from that lease has been used to pay for the upgrades to that area, including entrances, restrooms, parking, and utilities. We are also entering into a lease agreement with Northern Youth Football and Cheer (NYFC) for storage space. Again, all payments from that lease agreement will be used to renovate the facility.
Nearly every part of the SLC is now being used. We have provided an area for the Northern York Emergency Management team (NYEMA) to operate a command center in the case of an emergency. NYEMA has renovated an old classroom to meet their needs. Our music and drama departments use the old auditorium and band rooms for set construction and storage as well as a classroom for costume storage. The Polar Cares Closet has renovated the old office into a wonderful area that provides quality clothing, toiletries, and essentials to families in need. The gymnasium is used heavily for youth sports through the YMCA, as well as our indoor guard, dance, and percussion programs. The old locker rooms have been renovated and are used by our athletic programs. We have designated team rooms for several of our athletic teams. The District houses a central storage area that has allowed us to reduce costs by having a place to store materials bought in bulk, which are then distributed to the school buildings. The SLC is empty no more, and sports, learning, and so much more are taking place on a daily basis.
The School Board has heard me say several times that the District should not be the proprietor of historic buildings that sit empty. Maintaining them is expensive and not a good use of taxpayer money. With the sale of the building at 149 S. Baltimore Street and the renovations of the SLC, this School Board and Administration have been wise and prudent on behalf of the taxpayers. We still have one more historic building that sits nearly empty. With the renovation of Wellsville Elementary, the William Wells Young building, which used to house our kindergarten classes, is now unoccupied. Renovating that building must be done to historic standards and will be very expensive. As the School Board considers options for the future, we certainly welcome community input into how we can, once again, honor the integrity of an historic building, without burdening the taxpayer with excessive maintenance costs. We look forward to hearing your ideas.