Bethlehem Area Vo-Tech making room for more students, new amenities with planned expansion
BETHLEHEM, Pa. — About 200 Bethlehem Area Vocational-Technical School applicants were turned away during the past year because of increased programming demand, officials told a Bethlehem Area School Board committee Monday.
And one Vo-Tech official to the board's Facilities Committee said that it’s time to expand facilities on site at 3300 Chester Ave.
Vo-Tech Executive Director Adam Lazarchak discussed two potential expansion variations ranging from $22.1 million to $43.1 million, including estimated construction, furniture and equipment, contingency and soft costs.
The entire expansion process, including construction and pre-development approval procedures, would last just over three years, Lazarchak said.
“This expansion plan also puts us in a good position for the future in terms of growth, not just at the school but for emerging occupations for the 21st century."Bethlehem Area Vocational-Technical School Executive Director Adam Lazarchak
If approved, BASD is estimated to contribute about $25 million to the pricier project’s bond over its 20-year length, based on market share value.
Northampton Area and Saucon Valley school districts are estimated to contribute $7.9 million and $4.3 million, respectively.
The first option
The “A1” variant of the expansion would add 226 new seats — including 113 first-year students — and room to grow an extra 40.
“This expansion plan also puts us in a good position for the future in terms of growth, not just at the school but for emerging occupations for the 21st century,” Lazarchak said.
It would include updates to the following school programming, according to Lazarchak:
- Culinary: Commercial kitchen, classroom and storage amenities
- Veterinary Technician: Clinic area, classroom, dog kennels, dog runs and storage
- Mechatronics: Lab/classroom moving from current building floor plan to new wing
- Health Services: Three current lab/classrooms to be moved to a new wing and adding a fourth to the Behavioral Health program
- Lab/Classroom renovations inside existing building to add the Cyber Security and Medical Office programs and relocate the Social Media Marketing program
“So we have a wing that will be coming off, out of the section of our building heading toward Freedom High School,” Lazarchak said, looking at renderings of the proposal.
“And we are updating our parking and driving areas to create a better bus loop and create more safety for our students and alleviate congestion at the end of the school.”
That also could involve a new “action-packed” area outside the wing, fit for outdoor dining, food trucks and catering amenities, he said.
A second expansion variation
Lazarchak said a $43.1 million second variation, “A1+B,” would make room for 330 new seats — including 165 first-year students — with a growth outlook of an extra 80.
That expansion would call for the two existing automotive labs to move to the new facility along with the Automotive Collision Repair program.
That would open up space to add both Aviation Mechanics and more welding facilities on site.
“If we take a look at this site plan, you can see what the actual new construction would be, with the added wing coming off the back of our building for two Automotives and Auto Collision [labs],” Lazarchak said, looking over the renderings.
“And since that is our existing staff parking lot, we need to move parking to the back field behind our building so that we can accommodate staff parking. The [A1] construction or renovation will take place in the main building.”
A 'significant' investment
BASD Board President Michael Faccinetto said he was a fan of the “A1+B” option, considering programming interest has been continuously growing for Vo-Tech.
“This is my 15th year on the Vo-Tech board, and we were talking about this since before I got there. We need to do something; we can’t continue to sit there and not do anything.Bethlehem Area School Board President Michael Faccinetto
“This is my 15th year on the Vo-Tech board, and we were talking about this since before I got there,” Faccinetto said. “We need to do something; we can’t continue to sit there and not do anything.
“And if we’re going to do it, we need to open up more seats than 200, in my opinion.”
BASD Board member Karen Beck-Pooley said either option would be a “significant” investment, requiring careful planning, since other schools in the district also likely will need improvements as part of upcoming budget discussions.