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WELLSBORO — A connection between a new middle school and the existing high school is a must-have, otherwise closing the current Rock L. Butler Middle School is off the table.

That’s the message the Wellsboro Area School District board plans to deliver to architect Sam Scarantino with Quad 3, following discussion at the Nov. 5 work session.

At the most recent meeting with Scarantino, the board directed him to work on a conceptual plan for a combined middle/high school complex. Middle and high school students would attend most classes in separate buildings, but would share some space, such as the auditorium, shop or culinary classes.

Superintendent Dr. Brenda Freeman reported that Scarantino said a skywalk to connect the two buildings would be cost prohibitive as it would require elevators in both buildings for handicapped access.

However, a connection between the two buildings is a deal breaker, according to director Christopher Gastrock.

“If the board agrees the buildings need to be connected and he says it’s impossible to do or the costs are so high that we can’t afford it, they we don’t move forward,” said Gastrock.

He suggested Scarantino look into whether a ground level connection is possible, even if that requires closing the existing driveway and re-routing traffic around both buildings. If that’s not possible, Quad 3 will develop a proposal to upgrade the existing middle school.

Board members expressed apprehension about whether Scarantino fully understands the board’s desire to house students in separate buildings at the lowest cost possible, or if the district will receive a ‘Taj Mahal’ middle school concept.

Board member Kacy Hagan said she wants to put the district’s expectations in writing, along with what Quad 3 will deliver.

The board directed Freemen to schedule a video chat with Scarantino and the buildings and grounds committee later this week. Board members will provide their priorities before the meeting.

Business manager hired

In a special meeting immediately after the work session, the board unanimously approved the hire of Laura Perry as business manager. She replaces Bonnie Thompson, who is leaving to become the business manager at Southern Tioga School District.

Perry has been working in the school business field since 1989. She worked at Troy for 20 years, as business manager at Southern Tioga for 4 ½ years and most recently six-plus years at Athens.

Culinary trip

High school culinary arts teacher James Mack spoke to the board about a concept for a Culinary Travel Club and a trip to Italy in June 2021.

The club would be open to all students and include all costs except travel to the airport. Students would explore the culture, sample food from each region, go sightseeing and have free time.

The student to chaperone ratio would be six to one, he said. Through fundraising, he expects to be able to reduce the cost. Student cost is $4,145; adult cost is $4,745.

What’s next: The board will meet at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 12 in the old music room in the administration building.