LIMERICK PA – Amid a fresh buzz over the prospect of school district mergers, created Wednesday (Feb. 4, 2009) by Pennsylvania’s governor, officials of Montgomery County’s Western Center for Technical Studies will break ground this week on construction of an ambitious, 43,000-square-foot addition to its complex at 77 Graterford Rd.

An artist's rendering of the proposed expansion of the Western Center or Technical Studies in Limerick.

An artist's rendering of the proposed expansion at the Western Center for Technical Studies in Limerick.

The changes are intended to benefit students of the Spring-Ford, Pottsgrove, and Upper Perkiomen school districts, who attend the center for alternative or additional career training in a variety of vocations.

The $36.7 million project adds student workspace for two new course offerings, small engine repairs and diesel technology, as well as extra room for the center’s growing course load in automotive technology, auto collision and horticulture. Each of the three districts is paying a share of the construction expense.

Groundbreaking ceremonies are scheduled for Friday (Feb. 6, 2009) at noon at the center. The public is invited to attend.

The traditional shovel-the-earth event will follow by just two days a controversial budget address by state Gov. Ed Rendell to the Legislature, in which he proposed consolidating Pennsylvania’s 501 existing school districts into no more than 100 to save costs. “If the measure goes through, it would be the first state-forced consolidation since 1962, when the number of school districts went from 1,900 to 600,” the Allentown PA Morning Call newspaper reported.

While such large-scale merger plans are several years away, if they occur at all, consolidation advocates have long speculated that the county’s four technical centers – in Limerick, Lansdale, Plymouth Meeting and Willow Grove PA – could be the local focal points of such an effort.

One of the Western Center project’s final requirements before getting under way was met last month. The state Department of Environmental Protection approved short-term plans to handle sewage and wastewater expected to be generated once the enlarged center opens to students.

Image from the Western Center for Technical Studies

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