AllentownSchool District

ASD Board Approves Resolution to Commence the Design of a New East Side Middle School

ASD Board Approves Resolution to Commence the Design of a New East Side Middle School
Posted on 12/06/2021

ALLENTOWN, PA — At its Monday meeting, the Allentown Board of School Directors approved a resolution to commence the design of a new 750-student middle school. The new east side school will be located on the district’s Mosser Woods property, behind Mosser Elementary School. 

The approved resolution will allow the design of the new middle school to begin immediately with construction on Mosser Woods to begin in 2023 and for the school to open in 2026. Crews would then commence construction in 2027 on a fifth middle school on the existing HMMS site, which could welcome its first students in 2029. 

“After a great deal of study, discussion and consideration, we are pleased to take this next step in the process to address our district’s serious facility needs, especially at the middle school level,” said Nancy Wilt, Board President. “This plan will set us on a path to replace our oldest school building, which was originally constructed during the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant nearly 150 years ago. It is an important step forward to ensure our students have the modern spaces and facilities they need to engage in true 21st century learning.”

Both buildings will serve students in grades 6-8 on the east side of the city. ASD will first use the Mosser Woods building as a transitional space for students of Harrison-Morton Middle School, which will be demolished. A second new middle school will then be built on the Harrison-Morton site, located in the city’s First Ward.  

A 2017 feasibility study, updated earlier this year, determined that while the buildings like HMMS have been well maintained, they are increasingly ill-suited to support the functional and curricular demands of 21st century learning. A new building master plan is a key priority for Superintendent Dr. John Stanford. Most of the district’s 34 buildings are at least 50 years old, including nine that are more than 100 years old. 

The decision to build a new middle school at Mosser Woods is part of a broader district plan to make key facility improvements throughout ASD schools. Based on the updated feasibility study, these recommended construction projects have been organized into a comprehensive, actionable 10-year Capital Plan. As a part of this plan, the district has determined that the community would be best served by five middle schools. This will allow for smaller student populations in newly constructed or renovated facilities and provide the best opportunity to continue the implementation of Middle School Transformation within the Strategic Framework. 

The board has frequently cited the replacement of Harrison Morton Middle School as an absolute priority, while maintaining fiscal responsibility. While renovations were considered, the feasibility study determined that more than $30 million in capital improvements and repairs would be required in the building over the next decade. A total building renovation would come with a costlier price tag of $42 million and reduce the building’s capacity to 725. The school currently serves 847 students. 

ASD considered several other sites within the first ward to replace Harrison Morton MS. However, after careful study, it was determined that none could meet the district's specific criteria. 

Expected costs for the new buildings are $82.8 million for Mosser Woods and $95.4 million for Harrison-Morton. 

In addition, ASD recently announced that it will use federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to install air conditioning in 10 of its buildings. The funds will also provide for window replacements, ventilation upgrades and preventative maintenance at several schools. 

Meeting recording: