RICHFIELD — Monroe Elementary School will be one of only three elementary schools left in Juniata County School District when its $14.7 million consolidation project is complete at the end of this school year.
The Juniata County School board voted in 2016 to consolidate seven elementary schools for $44.9 million because it would be more cost effective than repairing many of its older facilities.
The Monroe school in Richfield will take on students from east-end schools Fayette and Thompsontown-Delaware and become East Juniata Elementary School. Fermanagh Elementary, in Mifflintown, will take on students from three west-end schools, Mountain View, Tuscarora Valley and Walker, and become Juniata Elementary School. Lack-Tuscarora Elementary School is not part of the plan.
When school starts Sept. 4, only students from the Richfield area who normally attended Monroe Elementary School will have classes in the building. This includes 29 staff members and 166 students. By the time the school year ends, the building will accommodate 61 staff members and 500 students.
Students in kindergarten through sixth grade from the three combined elementary schools will eventually attend East Juniata High School, so the district changed the elemntary school’s name to reflect that.
“Since this project feels like we are starting over, we wanted to give it a whole new identity,” Superintendent Keith Yarger said.
The former Monroe Elementary is undergoing a major overhaul, which began with geothermal work in June 2017. Parts of the current 14,000 square-foot facility were gutted and walls removed as a gymnasium, kitchen, bathrooms and mechanical room were added on the east side this summer. The entire structure, when completed, will cover 80,000 square feet — including a second story — more than five times its original size.
Four of six existing classrooms have already been remodeled. A two-story addition was added facing south on the west side of the building. The additions on each end will not be open to students until after winter break.
Painting and floor and ceiling work has been taking place Sundays, Yarger said.
More than 60 workers are at the Richfield work site every day, Reynolds Construction site manager Jerry Wagner said. The crowded appearance of construction vehicles, mounds of dirt, an unfinished front entrance and a gaping large hole for a window planned for the front of the facility has prompted some parents driving on Route 35 in front of the school to ask school officials about the facility’s readiness.
Wagner said the facility also incorporated a modern security system — an integrated card reader at the main entrance and safety vestibules, electric latch retraction doors and intrusion detection at other entrances to the facilities.
Security cameras will capture images all around the premises which will be viewable in the main office.