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District discusses future of Moore

There’s more to Moore than meets the eye.

The school, situated on a picturesque bluff with Blue Mountain looming in the distance, seems to be in good shape to the casual observer. However, repairing the school could cost $25,282,021 for partial renovation and $51,414,018 for full renovation.

Those are the construction costs reported at the April 4 town hall meeting at Moore Elementary School before a standing-room-only crowd estimated at more than 200, the majority of whom cheered and applauded for keeping Moore open.

“Moore Elementary has heart. The building is the heart of the community and Moore Township deserves its school,” said Dr. Katherine Mack, former Moore Elementary School principal.

The meeting was filled with emotion as 20 people took to the podium in the school’s multipurpose room to urge that Moore stay open for classes.

That would come at a cost to Northampton Area School District taxpayers, according to the April 4 presentation by the administration.

“The district doesn’t have $25 million or $50 million. We’d have to finance the renovations,” NASD Business Administrator Craig Neiman said.

“We need to have a plan in place. The (school) board is going to have to make a decision (about Moore Elementary) sometime this summer,” NASD Superintendent of Schools Joseph S. Kovalchik said.

In addition to renovation costs, continuing to staff Moore would cost $2,439,495 annually. Added to this are utilities and other items for an annual Moore operating cost of $3,224,495.

For a partial renovation of Moore, the estimated millage impact would be 4.83 mills, or 8.67%, or $304.29, with a cost per thousand of assessed value of 0.00483.

For a full renovation of Moore, the estimated millage impact would be 5.92 mills, or 10.63%, or $372.96, with a cost per thousand of assessed value of 0.00592.

“It’s a pretty significant number that we’re looking at,” Neiman said. “This is a pretty significant tax increase.”

The estimates are based on the district’s average assessed homestead of $63,000, with $3,510 paid in school property taxes.

Because of Act I limitations, a multiyear taxing strategy, beginning in 2024-25, would need to be devised. The Pennsylvania Department of Education Act I limits NASD to no more than a 6.6% tax increase for the 2024-25 school year.

“It’s not just that the district can go out and raise taxes,” Neiman said. “The (school) board would have to go looking at this increase over several years.”

The Route 329 project millage impact is 1.72 mills. The NASD equivalent of 1 mill is $1.2 million.

The millage estimates do not account for the cost of the expected Bethlehem Area Vocational-Technical School expansion or any other anticipated district operational cost increases. NASD, Saucon Valley and Bethlehem Area school districts provide funding for BAVTS.

“That’s one of the costs that is not accounted for,” Neiman said, referring to a BAVTS expansion.

Cost estimates for Moore renovations, which could begin in 2026, are based on presentations from district consulting engineer D’Huy Engineering Inc., held Nov. 13, 2023, and Jan. 17.

Moore Elementary, in the northeast corner of the 97.3-square-mile school district, is one story with a two-story classroom wing at 97,600 square feet. The building, constructed in 1957, with additions and renovations in 1966, 1973 and 2001, is on 17.75 acres at 2835 Mountain View Drive, Route 946, Moore Township.

Capital improvements needed at Moore Elementary include cooling and heating plans; heating/ventilation, air conditioning; electrical system; interior and exterior lighting; communications, safety and security; plumbing; fire protection; roof; and playground replacement.

“We’ve done 19 roof repairs in the last five years,” NASD Director of Operations and Maintenance Jonathan Jenny said at the April 4 meeting. “The plumbing system is underground, so we’d have to dig that up.”

Jenny said there have been 1,975 work orders for Moore.

“Out of the last five years, we have done the most repairs at [Moore Elementary],” Jenny said.

Moore, which has 383 students in grades kindergarten through 5, is one of five NASD elementary schools, including George Wolf Elementary School in Bath with 453 students, Col. John Siegfried Elementary School in Northampton with 712 students, Lehigh Elementary School in Lehigh Township with 495 students and Franklin Elementary School in Northampton with 114 kindergarten students.

The April 4 presentation included projected enrollments, based on new housing developments in NASD.

“We have to account for those units that are potentially coming in,” Kovalchik said.

Siegfried is at overcapacity, and there is no room for expansion in regards to the students, according to Kovalchik.

The April 4 presentation reported approximately 554 non-age-restricted housing units are approved and 1,165 non-age-restricted housing units are proposed, for a total of approximately 1,719 units within the district.

“The actuaries say 30%. If you have 1,000 homes, it’s 300 students,” Kovalchik said.

Franklin, along with the Washington building, which houses the district informational technology department, and the administration building, are scheduled to close and be sold in lieu of the elementary school and education center project.

Construction of the $75,858,529 school project at Route 329 and Seemsville Road in East Allen Township, which began in November 2023, is set to be completed in summer 2026.

Moore was to be closed as part of the Route 329 project. The NASD school board indicated it wants to keep Moore open but has not taken an official vote on the matter.

“At some point, we’re going to have to redistrict if Moore is closed,” Kovalchik said.

If Moore is renovated, Kovalchik, said, “You can take the kids out of Moore, take them for one year to Route 329 and move them back in.”

“I love this school. I pour my heart and soul into it,” Moore Elementary School Principal Curt Dimmick said. “We pride ourselves in being a pride of mountain lions.”

The Moore Elementary School mascot is the mountain lion. Dimmick lives in NASD and has been at Moore for 15 years.

“As principal of the school, I want to see the building remain open,” Dimmick said. “The last thing I want to see is my tax bill doubled. But if it means keeping Moore Elementary School open, I would sign that tax bill.”

The April 4 meeting was spearheaded by school Directors Kim Bretzik, Josh Harris and Brian McCulloch, who each represent Region 3: Moore Township and Bath and Chapman boroughs.

The April 4 presentation and a video of the meeting are available on the NASD website, nasdschools.org/article/1537624.

PRESS PHOTO BY PAUL WILLISTEIN NASD Superintendent of Schools Joseph S. Kovalchik addresses town hall meeting attendees at Moore Elementary School April 4 regarding the future of the school building.
PRESS PHOTOS BY PAUL WILLISTEIN School Director Josh Harris addresses the crowd during an April 4 town hall regarding the future use of Moore Elementary School.
School Director Brian McColluch takes to the podium during the meeting, attended by more than 200 people.