Auditorium plan earns OK
Officials from two schools presented sketch plans to the Bethlehem Township commissioners showing a new auditorium at Notre Dame High School and a new campus for Lehigh Valley Academy.
Presenting sketch plans is part of the building approval procedure that allows the commissioners to comment or express concerns about a project, but the board gave a green light to both projects.
The auditorium at Notre Dame, on Church Road, would be 18,000 square feet and contain a stage with lighting, a sound system and seating for 600, school Principal Andrew D’Angelo said.
Notre Dame, built in 1956, never had an auditorium. D’Angelo said the gym, also built in 1956, has been used for large events, such as twice-yearly theater productions, school Mass and open house.
After the meeting, D’Angelo said the gym could seat up to 800 using folding chairs and the bleachers.
“This new auditorium will meet our needs,” he said.
The project is expected to cost $4 million to $5 million and is anticipated to be completed by the 2020-2021 school year. The school has 500 students in grades nine through 12.
Plans for Lehigh Valley Academy, a charter school, showed a nearly 2,000-square-foot facility on a 58-acre site on the east side of Hecktown Road, north of Route 22.
Academy engineer Justin Massie, of Bethlehem-based Terraform Engineering, said it is hoped the project will start in the 2020-2021 school year and be completed by 2023.
Massie said that, besides having a gym and cafeteria, plans for the interior layout and number of classrooms will be forthcoming as the project moves to completion.
Massie and school CEO Susan Mauser said that at this point they were unable to provide an estimated cost.
The school has 1,950 students and is operating from a rented facility on Valley Center Parkway in Hanover Township, Northampton County.
It is under the umbrella of the Bethlehem and Saucon Valley school districts, but Mauser said the student body draws from 15 other Lehigh Valley school districts.
Mauser wouldn’t said how much the school pays in rent, but says it increases 2-3% per year and has now reached a level where it makes financial sense to put the money toward construction.
The school started in 2002 with 170 students and 13 employees.
“Now that we are closer to 1,950 students, in the long term, this [building a school] is a viable response,” she said.
Charles Malinchak is a freelance writer for The Morning Call.