During a mold remediation of their own school, Wolf Elementary students will relocate next year to a vacant middle school building in an adjacent Pennsylvania town, rented, ominously, in "as is" condition (SMH).
Districts prepare school switch
As George Wolf building is cleaned, 700 students to learn in Bethlehem.
By Michael Duck | Of The Morning Call
May 22, 2008
As experts prepare to scrub mold out of the walls at Bath's George Wolf Elementary, students should get ready to attend classes in Bethlehem in the fall.
This week, the Bethlehem Area School Board approved a $2,000-per-month agreement to lease the former Northeast Middle School to Northampton Area School District, which runs George Wolf.
Northampton school officials are expected to sign off on the lease, which would keep George Wolf's roughly 700 students together while work crews deal with the black mold found last month inside 41-year-old school's walls.
Officials are also inviting parents to learn more about the mold situation and the likely move at a June 3 town meeting at Northampton Area High School.
As George Wolf fifth-grader Megan Wiest left her school's field day Wednesday afternoon, she seemed glum about next school year's expected bus trips to Bethlehem.
''I don't like the idea of that,'' she said. ''It'll take longer to go there.''
Her father, Mike Wiest of East Allen Township, said he's also not thrilled about sending the students and his tax dollars out of the district, but he recognizes the old Northeast building might be one of the best options left.
''Having all the kids in one area is a good idea,'' he said. ''They've got to do what they've got to do.''
After years of student and teacher complaints about respiratory problems in George Wolf, a construction crew working on the school's ongoing renovations discovered black mold inside the wall of a boys' bathroom April 7.
Though school officials aren't certain the mold caused the symptoms some teachers and students experienced, the district closed off parts of the building where mold was found.
Through the end of the school year, about 40 percent of George Wolf's students are attending classes in church facilities and other schools as far away as Northampton and Lehigh Township.
''It's terrible. Â… I feel like they are disorganized,'' said parent Cheryl C. Newhall of Bath, describing the daily chaos of sending off students.
Needing a longer-term solution, school officials announced on May 2 that George Wolf would be closed next school year and students might be headed to Bethlehem instead.
Sending the students to other Northampton facilities wasn't a practical option because nearly all of the district's schools are at or over capacity.
The lease approved Monday in Bethlehem would charge the Northampton district $2,000 per month, plus the costs of maintenance and utilities, to lease the former Northeast Middle from August 2008 through June 2009. Also, Northampton officials would have to accept the building in ''as is'' condition.
The arrangement would save Bethlehem school officials the expense of tearing down the building, which was expected to be vacant next year and had been replaced by Northeast Middle in August 2005. Since then, Bethlehem has used the old building as extra classroom space for Liberty High School freshmen during that school's $64 million renovation.
In the meantime, Northampton school officials continue to grapple with growing expenses for the George Wolf renovation, which had been expected to cost $17.19 million before mold was discovered.
Bob Yanders, the district's head of maintenance, said officials will receive estimates on June 10 for how much it will cost to get rid of the mold.
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