Au­di­to­rium plan earns OK

The Morning Call - - LOCAL NEWS - By Charles Mal­in­chak

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.

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