Thursday, November 29, 2018

As South Elementary Fate Debated, Class Size Tops Perk Valley Priorities, Tax Impact Ranked Last

Photos by Evan Brandt
More than 100 people attended the Perkiomen School District's special meeting Wednesday night looking at facilities issues and particularly, to discuss the fate of South Elementary School. 
Maintaining small class size and equity of instructional opportunity were the two top priorities identified among 10 by the more than 100 people who attended a special Perkiomen Valley School District meeting about facilities -- with a particular focus on South Elementary School.

Coming in dead last on the priorities list was "minimizing tax impact" of whatever decision is made by the school board.

Driving public interest is the possibility of South Elementary School being closed; or renovated; or replaced and all the ripples of district-wide impact that decision will send out into the greater school community.
South Elementary School in Trappe.

It all began this summer when air quality tests revealed mold spores in classrooms.

The ensuing clean-up, spurred a discussion about the future of the school, the district's oldest, built in 1955 with an addition added in 1995.

Options have included repairing and upgrading the building; building a new South Elementary School; re-districting elementary students among the remaining three elementary schools; or even changing the configuration of the schools to make 5/6 and 7/8 grade centers at the district's two middle schools.

Each choice comes with its own set of challenges, pros and cons and, of course, costs.

The district has held a number of public meetings on the matter. And after more than 300 people volunteered to be part of a steering committee, the administration shifted gears and invited everyone to last night's meeting to attempt to set a foundation for decision making.

The results of a priority survey taken by those at last night's meeting.
Divided up into tables of eight people, each with a "facilitator" who was either an administrator or school board member, Superintendent Barbara Russell walked the crowd through the basics of how the district got to this point.

Then the group was charged with taking an electronic survey asking them to rank their priorities to create a "define a values framework for reviewing current facility options."

The results were immediately available and the clear top priority was class size, followed by ensuring consistency and equity in educational program.

Coming in third was limiting the number of building transitions; closely followed by providing students with modern resources; providing staff with the resources they need; maintaining a maximum bus ride of 45 minutes; enhancing resources for special education and extra curricluar activities.

Perkiomen Valley Schools Superintendent Barbara Russell
instructs residents who attended last night's meeting how"
to take the electronic priorities survey.
Coming dead last was tax impact.

Minimizing tax impact was "rated as least important by 65 percent of you," Russell said.

It should be noted that the residents also noted their municipality and the largest number of those there live in Collegeville and Trappe boroughs, which is the attendance area for South Elementary School.

Residents of Schwenksvuille and Lower Frederick made up the fewest percentage of the audience.

One resident asked Russell if the same priorities survey could be offered to the entire district, and she said it is definitely something the district would consider.

She told the residents that an engineering and architecture firm had undertaken a "Master Facilities" study that will be unveiled at the next school board work session meeting on Dec. 3.

A second "South Elementary Feasibility Study" has also been undertaken, but will not be ready by that meeting, she said.

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

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