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LVPC commends plans for new Fountain Hill elementary

Fountain Hill Elementary School
A new Fountain Hill Elementary School is planned to replace its predecessor facility at 1330 Church St.

FOUNTAIN HILL, Pa. — Things are moving forward for Bethlehem Area School District's new Fountain Hill Elementary, as Lehigh Valley Planning Commission took a look at plans for the project.

Plans are to redevelop the building into a larger, three-story, 87,000-square-foot school building at 1330 Church St.

It will include new bus loading and drop-off areas, redesigned vehicle parking and new outdoor play areas.

Lehigh Valley Planning Commission approved its report of comments at its meeting Thursday.

The letter, which will be used to guide Fountain Hill Borough planners, was approved without any comments or opposition by commission members.

The LVPC specifically commended the redevelopment of the same parcel, the landscaping plans and a proposed "nature play area" that provides green space access.

It also praised inclusion of a "family center and food pantry" to support "cultural and social programs."

Parking and other elements

Reconfigured parking at the building will reduce the existing lot to 30 spaces, but additional lots added will increase the total spaces from 28 to 51.

The LVPC states that adding 127 feet to the bus storage area along Church Street and the 73 feet of new bus storage along the western staff parking lot will help decrease disruptions to traffic flow, with less crowding of buses in the Church Street driving lane.

According to the plans, Church Street from Norway Place to Garden Street in Fountain Hill will be designated as a school zone, limiting it to bus traffic only from 8 to 9:30 a.m. and from 2:30 to 4 p.m. weekdays.

LVPC states that a crosswalk is planned to be removed at Church and Forrest streets, and that signage should redirect students and other pedestrians because of the large percentage of students who walk to and from school.

The group also encourages the reuse of construction materials when possible, the use of more sustainable energy sources, and the implementation of EV chargers on Church Street to minimize environmental impacts and potentially reduce costs over time.

Progress on development

In March, the school district said things are moving forward, with bidding and demolition expected for next year.

Construction is expected to last from Summer 2025 to Summer 2027.

It is estimated to cost just over $60 million.

Four key goals behind the school’s new design — its “North Stars” as BASD Superintendent Jack Silva called them — involve:

  • Improving teaching and learning within the building 
  • Fitting within the landscape of the surrounding community
  • Developing a low-maintenance, durable and energy-efficient facility
  • Offering a separate and easily accessible community space on site

In May, the school district decided all of the 500 students from Fountain Hill Elementary will have classes at the former home of Lehigh Valley Academy charter school at 1640 and 1650 Valley Center Parkway, off Schoenersville Road, in Hanover Township.