UBCTS ponders $20 million renovation project
Almost half a century after its 1964 start, Upper Bucks County Technical School is long overdue for an update to its buildings, according to Bernard Wagenseller, the school’s executive director.
Along with making sure the school’s programs each have enough space and the right stuff for 21st century needs, rebuilding would include additional security and Americans with Disability Act requirements for accessibility, he said.
Beyond that, though, it could be part of getting the country out of its economic doldrums.
“:H’UH SWUXJJOLQJ WR fiQG WKH SHRple who can do machining, who can GR WKH SLSH fiWWLQJ, wKR FDQ EXLOG WKH bridges and do all the construction and all the other technical skills,” Wagenseller said.
“There’s so many people that are out of work and there’s so many jobs that are out there, but the disconnect is these people who are out of work don’t have the skill sets to do these jobs and at the same time, the career and technical centers like Upper Bucks are teaching those skills, but somewhere in the formula, there’s a disconnect, and I think part of it is America needs to instill pride again in trades and the technical careers,” :DJHQSHOOHU SDLG. “FRU PH, fixLQJ WKH EXLOGLQJ XS LS WKH fiUSW SWHS LQ having kids feel the pride.”
With the school now having about 640 students from the Pennridge, Palisades and Quakertown school districts, one of the goals is to increase that number, he said, but the current facilities make it harder to do that. Students at the school spend half their school day in their home district and half at the technical school on Ridge Road in Bedminster Township.
“We are a school of choice. People come here and they look at our building and they choose not to come here,” Wagenseller said.
2vHU WKH SDSW SHvHUDO yHDUS, fivH feasibility studies for rebuilding at the school have been conducted. The latest one, by Godshall Kane O’Rourke Architects, of Ambler, is different, though, Wagenseller said.
“The feasibility studies of the past have really looked at the nuts and bolts of the campus,” he said.
“That’s important, but what the previous feasibility studies didn’t
do was look at the program areas and say what was appropriate in 1964, and even into the ‘70s when the annex building was built, isn’t necessarily what’s appropriate for today’s industry standards for teaching the programs that we’re teaching,” Wagenseller said. “While wH FaQ fix RuU buLOdLQJV, it’s important that we take a look also at the programs that we’re teaching. Are they the right programs and are the lab areas set up to teach these programs effectively?”
The school’s Joint Operating Committee was shown eight options for building plans and has chosen one, which, while not yet fully developed, will be taken back to the full school boards of the three districts for their review, he said.
“What we were hoping for was some consensus from the three districts to say, ‘OK, take the next step.’ and the next step would be to tell our architect to sharpen their SHQFLO aQd JLYH uV WKH fiQHU details of what this plan’s going to look like,” Wagenseller said.
Ballpark price estimates for the option chosen are in the $20 million to $22 million range, he said.
The state of Pennsylvania currently has placed a moratorium on state reimbursements for public school construction projects, but UBC76 fiOHd IRU WKH UHLPbursement in time to get in before the start of the moratorium.
Career and technical schools generally get a larger reimbursement than school districts because the technical schools serve more than one district, Wagenseller said.
“By SURYLdLQJ VLJQLficantly higher amounts of reimbursement, it encourages districts to join forces to form a consortium,” he said. “We stand to be reimbursed aW OHaVW fiYH WR VLx PLOOLRQ dollars, and that’s because we’re the consortium career technical center that we are.”
Although he’d prefer to see rebuilding happen sooner rather than later, Wagenseller said, there’s no time frame attached to the plans.
The next step is to take what’s already been done and have a more in-depth analysis completed, so the school boards can make their decisions, he said.
“Whether you do something with it or not is up to you, to take the next step, but you’re going to know what’s wrong with those boilers and that electrical system and that generator,” Wagenseller said. “vou’re going to NQRw VSHFLfiFaOOy what it’s going to cost to replace all these things, so that would be the next phase.”