Friday, March 15, 2019

Barkley Has Most Lead Violations in Phoenxiville

Barkley Elementary School

The Phoenixville School District's buildings have a total of  291 faucets.

When the water that comes out of them was tested for lead 13 of them had a level over the federal minimum safety standard and 12 of those were at the district's oldest building -- Barkley Elementary School.

One was at Phoenixville Middle School.

All have been shut off while the district decides what to do about it.

Superintendent Alan Fegley said "we're actually very pleased with the results."

That's because most districts find that 10 to 30 percent of their faucets dispense water that has a lead level higher than 15 parts per billion. Phoenixville's percentage is about 4.5 percent.

Also less worrisome is the fact that the lead only shows up when the water has been left to sit for more than 12 hours and when the water has been run as little as 15 seconds, whatever  contamination remains drops below the safety level.

All of the contamination came from sinks, none from drinking fountains Fegley confirmed. And the sinks where the contamination was found "are really not used very much," said J. Kenneth Butera, who heads the school board's building and grounds committee.

He reported on the findings at last night's school board work session.

Fegley said the district's consultants said it is useless to try to find the pipe which is the source of the contamination and it is much more cost-effective to replace faucets, place filters there or, may well be the case, simply turn off faucets hardly anyone ever uses.

He said the testing was done at the suggestion of the state, which suggests annual testing or at least discussion of undertaking a regular testing regimen.

The last time the district tested its water for lead was in 2007 when the minimum safety standard was 20 parts per billion, Fegley said.

Full-Day Kindergarten

Test scores comparing all Phonenixville's kindergarten students
with those in the full-day pilot program.
The school board also discussed the district's pilot full-day kindergarten program and received an
abbreviated overview from Mwenyewe Dawan, the principal of the Phoenixville Early Education Center, which houses grades K-1.

She said comparing performance by those in the district's half-day kindergarten with those in full-day showed greater improvement from the full-day students.

Early learning center teachers speak in favor of
full day kindergarten in Phoenixville.
However, she confirmed what board member Christopher Caltagirone noted, that the sample-size of students being compared is too small to reach a statistical conclusion.

Caltagirone said he is nevertheless in favor of full-day kindergarten.

Board member Kevin Pattinson, who heads up the board's curriculum committee, said even if the district's sample size is too small, it mirrors national statistics on the benefits of full-day kindergarten.

"It has a cost, but it pays for itself in the long run," said Pattinson. "I wish I had pushed for it harder years ago when we could afford it more easily."

The board also heard from three teachers at the early education center who favor making kindergarten in Phoenixville a full-day affair. Given the $2.6 million shortfall in the 2019-2020 budget, and the fact that the district is moving its start times in the coming school year, makes adoption of full-day kindergarten at the same time unlikely Pattinson acknowledged.

"But if I could leave the board knowing we had implemented it this September, I would," he said.

Fines for Vaping?

A sharply divided board continued its discussion of the idea of fining students who are caught a second or third time vaping on school grounds.

Last month, the board could not reach consensus and sent the matter back to the policy committee, also headed by Pattisonson.

There did not seem to be much movement in the discussions Thursday night, although board member Jeesely Soto did provide some new information: that Phoenixville Mayor Peter J. Urscheler opposes fining students for the offenses.

Soto also said she spoke with members of the police department who told her they had not cited anyone for underage vaping in the past year and that the consensus among the department is fines would be a problem.

Fegley had told the board that students said fines would be a better deterrent and confirmed that most students caught the first time, who have their equipment confiscated and must complete an anti-smoking program, do not repeat the offense.

That makes the issue of fines unlikely and not a problem, said Butera. But Board Lisa Longo said the fines are punitive and, like cash bail, "punish the poor."

It's different than fining a student for a lost book, which the district also does, because that is to replace the item, not a direct punishment for behavior.

School Board President Eric Daugherty cut off discussion after a time and said the question will be decided at the voting meeting March 21.

And with that, here are the Tweets from the meeting:

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