Milton Hershey School moves forward with expansion plans

HERSHEY, Pa. (WHTM) – A controversial plan by a Midstate private school to expand its footprint is moving forward, as administrators plan to start construction next week.

The Milton Hershey School has been laying the groundwork for their 32 student home expansion in Dauphin County.

They’re at the point now that walls can start going up — walls a lot like the ones Symyra Byrd is used to.

The middle-schooler has lived at MHS for four years.

“We get so many different opportunities when we’re here,” Symyra said. The 12-year-old from Centre County is excited more students like herself will get those same opportunities.

“Cause there’s so many people in this world who don’t really have much,” she said.

To the school, more space means they can serve more underprivileged kids.

MHS president Peter Gurt said the land for the middle school division, which they’ll call the Legacy Campus, is strategic since it connects to another section of student homes.

“I can think of no better purpose than to serve more children who deserve an opportunity at success,” Gurt said.

But it’s been a heavy lift. At a contentious public meeting early last year, community members worried about congestion and property values among other concerns.

Township supervisors approved the plan 3-2.

“I don’t think the people of South Hanover Township were represented tonight,” David Lerch said at the time.

Several people left the meeting upset and disappointed, one woman pointing to the board and telling them they were all fired.

“We’ve listened,” Gurt said Wednesday. “We’ve adjusted our plans to accommodate as many of those concerns as possible.”

The 32 new homes will be built in three phases.

“Barring an unusually harsh winter we should have, a year from now, at least eight homes on this site constructed,” vice president of finance and administration Elliott Robinson said.

Walls will start going up as early as next week. Symyra hopes the 300 new students they’ll house will get the same benefits she has.

“They’re just like family to me and they help me through everything that I struggle with,” she said.

All phases of construction are expected to be finished within about three years.

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