EMS Media Center upgrade

By on May 1, 2019

Extensive renovations to the Ephrata Middle School Media Center begin this month with a completion date set for the start of the 2019-2020 school year.

The board of directors approved renovation plans and authorized the administration to award contracts with the lowest “responsive and responsible” bidder at the April 29 board meeting at Highland Elementary School.

Total cost of the bid awards for the media center project are $598,006.

It included a bid of $373,700 awarded to East Coast Contracting Inc. for general construction and a bid of $30,000 to Alternate GC-1 for new exterior windows.

The work for electrical construction will go to CMSE Inc. at a cost of $194,306.

No bids were received for the installation of heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) construction, so that contract will be re-bid. The nearly $600,000 update will bring up-to-date technology, revamp the media center entrance and reconfigure the “Mounts Tech Support” area.

The renovations will also convert a media center classroom to a student lounge with learning stairs, smaller than but similar to the one at the high school and include “writable” walls.

Two small collaboration rooms will be converted to an audio recording room. Unlike the high school, no cafe is in the plans for the middle school’s media center. Officials and board members met after the March regular board meeting to hear a presentation from Crabtree, Rohrbaugh, and Associates that reviewed renderings of the proposed renovations, costs, and construction timeline.

The scale of this project will be much smaller than the high school’s new media center, said Sarah McBee, director of media and community relations.

Once completed, the media center will increase capacity thanks to greater efficiency in space used and the creation of zones for separate activities, she said.

The district unveiled Ephrata High School’s state-of-the-art media center last September.

The district received a $10,000 grant from “Project Lead the Way” to expand the STEM and computer science offerings at the middle school.

Project Lead the Way is an engineering program introduced to Ephrata High School in 2012 through a $35,000 Gargill grant.

Since that time, the high school has received national PLTW certification and has continued to grow into six full-year courses, including “engineering design,” and “software engineering.”
High school students enrolled in PLTW courses have the opportunity to apply for college credit or receive college-level recognition at more than 50 affiliate universities, including the Rochester Institute of Technology and Perdue and Duke universities. In another matter, Superintendent Brian Troop and other district administrators met recently with Dr. George Drake, Dean of the College of Education at Millersville University, to brainstorm on how to attract more students to the field of education.

The educators are looking for ways to ease the transition from high school into education courses at colleges and to help the transition from college to employment.

“Right now, there’s a steady decrease of students taking college education courses to become teachers,” Troop said. “We’re already seeing this as we try to fill substitute teacher positions.”
Pennsylvania is seeing a decline in the number of people applying for teaching certifications, Troop added. Concurrently, the need for trade and construction positions is expanding, as experienced tradesmen reach retirement, with a lack of younger professionals to take their place. Many of the trades offer two-year educational programs, Troop said, and students graduate to jobs with good salaries.

Meanwhile, tuition for a four-year college education is much higher than a trade school, and graduates are looking at their earning potential when they come out. Often, you can earn more with a two-year degree,” Troop said. “It’s in our best interest to look at solutions for this trend and to provide opportunities for students.”

A number of factors have contributed to the current decline of interest in teaching careers.

“Public education has been getting a bad rap in recent years,” Troop said.

When any negatives in society are noted, they sometimes are attached to public schools, he said.

“In 2012, when the economy took a hit, some schools weren’t hiring or furloughed some staff, so the profession is not looking as desirable as it once had,” Troop said.
One step toward changing those conditions could involve giving college credit to seniors who currently volunteer their time in elementary classrooms, Troop said.

In another matter, Troop told the board that 146 EHS students achieved “Scholar Athletes” status for the spring semester. Of that number, 52 students received all “As” and 94 of the athletes received all “As” and “Bs” for the semester.

Ephrata High School students also raised $37,000 during their mini-thon this year to fight childhood cancer, Troop said. Chris Weber, board vice-president, honored three high school students with a school board resolution.

They include Evan Dunlap, qualifier in the National Concept Schools MathCON; Jacob Huntingdon, for State Geography Bee qualifier; and Olivia Schmid for All-State Mixed Choir.
Highland’s third-grade students, under the direction of teachers Jessica Werntz and Amanda Halteman, showed the board and administration the revitalized business models they created, as their

“Ephrata Innovates” project.

“The students were given a challenge to revitalize Ephrata,” Highland’s Principal Brett Espenshade told the board.
The students looked at what services they could provide, what resources they had, and their budget.

All third-graders voted for the top three best businesses, with the winners being “The Puppy Paws Cafe,” a combination cafe and dog park; the “Family Fun House,” which includes a dance club, souvenir shop, and cafe; and the “Family Friendly Ninja Warrior Course.” The group who planned the family-friendly Ninja course felt that Ephrata needs more fitness places for kids. It also has a resting area complete with sofas for tired Ninjas.

“We have three courses; easy, normal, and hard,” said Jonah Umstead, nine. “You can relax, eat, and climb all at the same place.”
At the Family Fun House, people can shop, eat, and dance.

“If you dance for one hour, you get a free drink,” said 9-year-old Journey Sohn. “Everything is a dollar, and we have coffee, cookies, soda, milkshakes, and pizza.”
At the Puppy Paws Cafe, the dog park is located out back and has everything from an umbrella to shelter the dogs, to water bowls, and a dirt area for the dogs to roll in.

“We believe there will be a big demand for our dog park,” said Taylor Barton, nine. “I like our business because it’s all about dogs and I like dogs and it would be a fun experience.”
The board’s next regular meeting is 7 p.m., May 13, at Ephrata High School.

Marylouise Sholly is a freelance feature writer for The Ephrata Review. She welcomes your comments and questions at weezsholly@verizon.net. 

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