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Modular Classrooms May Be Needed at Schuylkill, East Pikeland Elementaries

The matter was discussed at a school board budget meeting Tuesday evening.

The Phoenixville Area School District administration recommended budgeting $240,000 for temporary trailers at the East Pikeland and Schuylkill Elementary sites at a budget meeting Tuesday.

The item was ultimately moved to the “yellow light” list, or out of the budget to be reconsidered later during the budget season. Board members and administrators, however, had a lengthy discussion about the possible need for modular classrooms at the two locations.

According to Stan Johnson, executive director of operations, the $240,000 in costs would be for installation costs, walkways, foundations, utility connections and one year of rent for four trailers. There may be two at Schuylkill Elementary and two at East Pikeland Elementary, but that’s still being determined, Johnson said.

Superintendent Dr. Alan Fegley said delays in the East Pikeland Elementary School expansion have contributed to the possible need for trailers. The longer the project is delayed, the greater the need for trailers, Fegley explained.

“If I don’t have that building really going forward in the next couple months, I’ll pull the trigger and start having this work done,” Fegley said.

During construction of the potential addition at East Pikeland Elementary, the district planned for students to stay in the existing building, so trailers would not be needed even if construction had to occur during the school year.

“There’s no intent to put children in the trailers while the construction is underway,” Johnson said.

The potential for the project to be delayed into the 2013-2014 school year, along with potential enrollment increases in the district, prompted the administration to recommend inclusion of the line item in the 2012-2013 budget, Fegley said. The contract could be a multi-year deal if the East Pikeland project doesn’t get off the ground.

“It could be short if we get the building or it could as long as we’ve had the trailers outside the middle school,” Fegley said.

Board Vice President Jan Potts asked if the trailers currently at the middle school could be reused. Johnson said the district is considering that option, but those trailers do not have restrooms that would be needed for elementary school students, so they'd have to be modified. The district currently has a “perpetual lease” for the modular classrooms at the middle school.

If modular classrooms are needed at either elementary, the plans to place them on the site will likely have to go to the townships for approval. 

“They could go on playgrounds or parts of playgrounds,” Johnson said, as well as blacktop areas.

Board members had several questions about the need for trailers and the need for including them in the 2012-2013 budget. Fegley said that right now, it looks like the district could make it through that school year. A computer lab at East Pikeland will be turned into classroom space and at Schuylkill Elementary, areas can be condensed.

“What we really need them for is the following school year,” Fegley said.

However, he said an additional first grade will likely be recommended at Schuylkill Elementary for next school year, and he said he is concerned that condensing spaces could affect education in the district’s elementary schools.

“Packing the classrooms the way we’re starting to pack the classrooms is starting to affect instruction,” Fegley said.

Therefore, Fegley said he’d rather have the trailers ready to go for the 2012-2013 school year. He agreed that even if the East Pikeland Elementary project were approved today, construction would still take a year to a year and a half. In addition, the enrollment at Schuylkill is growing.

“If that trend continues, I really need something for 2012-2013, even if I have the construction going,” Fegley said.

Even if the district can hold off until the following school year, the infrastructure for the modular classrooms would still have to be in place during the 2012-2013 school year. After the first year, which includes installation costs, that total budget line item would go down to just the rental fee.

Board Treasurer Josh Gould said that if the trailers may not be needed for the 2012-2013 budget, he’d rather leave them out. In the future, he said instead of raising taxes the district could use its reserves. Fegley cautioned against using reserves for the trailer cost. Board Member Kevin Pattinson asked if the $826,000 could be used.

“There’s many millions of dollars worth of things that we could use that $800,000 for,” Gould said. “This is one of them."

Board Member Betsy Ruch said the way she understood it, no matter what happens with the East Pikeland project, trailers will still be needed at Schuylkill. Fegley said that enrollment is likely to grow at Schuylkill.

“Until we start doing some redistricting, Schuylkill is going to continue to grow and I have some concerns about how that’s growing,” Fegley said.

Board members debated on whether or not to leave the $240,000 in the working budget for the upcoming school year. The suggestion was made to move it to the “yellow light” list of possible changes to the budget, and so it wouldn’t be included in calculating the potential tax increase.

“As we go through this process, it’ll force us to make decisions to cut other things out, essentially, so I’d rather not have a number this big in there,” Board Member Dr. Dan Cushing said.

On the other hand, Board Member David Ziev said he’d rather have it kept in the working budget so the board will keep chipping away at other expenses.

The consensus was to move it to the list of “yellow light” items and re-evaluate the cost when more information on enrollment is available.

The district made a number of reductions amounting to $362,715 between the February budget meeting and Tuesday’s meeting and also added in $217,493 in revenue for an increase in state retirement funding.

The potential tax increase stands at 2.34 percent. The median home assessment in Phoenixville is $133,540, meaning half the homes are above that number and half below. For a homeowner at the median assessment, the increase would amount to $95 extra for the 2012-2013 school year.  

Bud Horenci March 21, 2012 at 07:24 PM
Trailers at our newest, not more than a few years old, elementary school??? This is a joke, right? I am outraged by our school district once again. We don't do any capacity/enrollment forecasting? Or are we just totally incompetent. And the housing market is in the toilet too. No new developments being built that I'm aware of. Where is all this increased enrollment coming from and how is possible that a few years after completion, a school has no more room and needs trailers. Someone should be fired over this. If I ran the businesses I once owned like this I'd be living under a bridge somewhere. Now the school district will see that I do anyway. Are you all bafoons? Is there no shame in being incompetent? Is there no accountability? I can't wait until I can sell my house and get away from this mess. It can't happen soon enough.
Josh Gould March 22, 2012 at 10:21 AM
As usual, Mr. Horenci spews conjecture and insults without bothering to check any facts. The size of Schuylkill School was limited by both the Pennsylvania Department of Education and by Schuylkill Township. Several waivers were required in order to build the school as large as it is, such as for impermeable surface coverage. Increased enrollment is driven by many factors in addition to development. One significant factor in recent years has been the economy, which has driven many people to decide to send their children to public school rather than private school.
Bud Horenci March 22, 2012 at 11:54 AM
Mr. Gould: Perhaps I and many others in the community wouldn't "spew conjecture and insults" if you and the rest associated with the school district would be more forthcoming and informative with information. Nowhere in this article, or in the budget presentation, or during the construction of the new Schuylkill School that I can recall was there any mention of the issues you mention. Why is it the individuals responsibility to delve into each specific permit application, individual rulings or private conversation, spending hours, days and weeks to get factual information? Who can possibly do that??? It is your responsibility sir to distribute this information and to work around these types of roadblocks. If you can't do it, please do all of us a favor and resign. Because you're incapable, we pay and pay and pay. Thanks for nothing.
SLM March 22, 2012 at 12:03 PM
Has it ever occurred to Mr. Horenci that the enrollment numbers are up due to the fact that PASD is providing a great education for the children in Phoenixville? There is not need to pay tuition when you can bet a GREAT public education.
P-ville-resident March 22, 2012 at 12:23 PM
After reading this article, I thought the same thing Bud.....Didn't they just build a new elementary school in Schuylkill township. I commend Bud for bringing this up and making a good point. It is the job It is the Schools administration and those who are closely affiliated to do their due diligence, Josh Gould say's "One significant factor in recent years has been the economy, which has driven many people to decide to send their children to public school rather than private school.".... NO KIDDING JOSH. The economy wasn't great when the construction began and this should of been brought up during the countless meetings I am sure were had. Phoenixville has grown in the past 10 years, did you think it was going to stop all of a sudden. Don't be so gullible. It is not our job as tax paying residents to do all the research and leg work that was the responsibility of the administration. Our job is to go to work and try and make more money so we can pay more taxes for their incompetence.
Jennifer Daywalt March 22, 2012 at 12:23 PM
I stay out of politics for good reason. :) I do want to add however that I believe many original owners of homes are moving on and that is bringing many new families into the area. I think that may be the reason for continued growth in enrollment for the school district.
Horse March 22, 2012 at 12:50 PM
Amazingly, the school tax monies recieved from "private school" families is FREE money for the school district--no break or credit given there for a tax break. Plus that money is probably from home owners that are significantly above the median, making it a double whammie!! But, in the census I'm sure those school-age children numbers are included somewhere. I agree with Bud Horenci, it is ridiculous that after 3-4 years we need to consider another expansion. This possibility was NEVER discussed or suggested to the public or I am sure another direction would have been demanded! It's so simple to sit at the table and decided how much % to increase the taxes year after year after year!! This is definitely an outrage!!!
imwatchingyou March 22, 2012 at 01:26 PM
Good point Jennifer. But as I see it there is zero accountability with this and the last board. Where is the transparency with the forensic audit for the mis appropriation of athletic funds...the lawsuit with Dr Noyes...agreement of sale for the Kimberton site. All the money spent on lawyer fees for these issues just get swept under the rug. In another post someone mentioned a million dollars for two fields in six years. Now in todays paper Mr.Gheris states that a zero budget would necessitate a larger increase in the future. Mrs. Potts states" Im all for a zero percent increase but the problem is, if we continue at zero or we increase only to the index (1.7%)...we can't hit the taxpayers, the people of this district with, such an increase." Are you kidding me! An 8. % increase for the next budget cycle? You people are insane.
imwatchingyou March 22, 2012 at 01:36 PM
Another thing... why does it cost the entire state of New York $ 18,645 to educate a child and in Phoenixville its over $ 17,400 ? I know, I know its because of the salaries and tax base. Maybe this Boro should look to bring in business instead of more homes to the steel property putting more strain on the taxpayers
Horse March 22, 2012 at 01:47 PM
That's an excellent point!! 350 Condos at the steel mill property, and 56 more new McMansions at the Reeves property can only exacerbate this issue!
Joe Phoenix March 22, 2012 at 02:01 PM
Speaking of school taxes why is it that people who have no children utilizing the school system do not get a tax break? Also the elderly who are on fixed incomes and no longer have children attending school? This whole system is screwed up and robbing the taxpayers blind.
Horse March 22, 2012 at 02:15 PM
WOW! Another excellent point!! Foreigners are amaze when I tell them that I pay school tax and they say, "but you have no chidren in school." And the poor retired homeowners, who worked their whole lives for their home, only to be forced to out because they can't afford the School Tax. It's mind-boggling!! And, definitely unfair! The assessment concept is a joke!! A neighbor doesn't care for, or make any improvements on his property and so has a lower assessment/appraisal and pays less taxes! So, I am again penalized for caring for my home.
imwatchingyou March 22, 2012 at 03:01 PM
Another part of the problem... how many illegal " foreigners " are we paying for who are mostly renters, Josh? Enlighten us with your wisdom. Just sayin...
Kathryn March 22, 2012 at 04:02 PM
When Schuylkill School first opened it's doors my daughter started kindergarten there; it was already overcrowded. I can imagine the overcrowded that is and will be happening. Especially if another development is built in the township. There should be no more developments allowed. The land is built out enough, soon there will be no open spaces left!
David Curran March 22, 2012 at 05:02 PM
I agree with Bud- I cannot wait for him to sell his house and leave. There is no reason for such a hate filled letter. I, like everyone else does not want trailers; but progress happens and has to be planned for
Bud Horenci March 22, 2012 at 05:31 PM
You obviously can't handle the truth Mr. Curran. And you've also made my point....there was NO planning for progress. For the record sir, I have donated thousands of hours of my time and skill toward the betterment of this community. Look it up. And I dread seeing the taxing authorities waste our hard earned money. What have you done for your community lately ?
David Curran March 22, 2012 at 05:53 PM
I can hardly see how writing hateful letters and suggesting you cannot wait to leave this area constitutes bettering the community. As for the trailers; if EPES is delayed and trailers were required, and not allowed for, who would be to blame. They have not spent the money yet--just allowed for it. Now the issue can be examined in a non-emergency, hopefully civil way Schuylkill is a different issue entirely. I thought Josh gave you a reasonable answer about the constraints they faced. Can you tell us all what the population of the area will be and how many children will be added in the next 10 years or so? Ad hominem attacks are not helpfull and diminish your position
Bud Horenci March 22, 2012 at 06:16 PM
Oh please. Ad hominen attacks? I attacked no one my name. Only Mr Gould attacked me personnally with his response. Give me a break. I don't know who you are or how long you have lived in the area and or how long you've been ignored by taxing authorities. I watched them drive my mother from her home with year after year of ridiculous tax increases and if I have to scream for the roof tops to get their attention I will. Information is non existant. There are services which I would assume can do some analysis of area growth. You know, a survey of developable land, zoning, the works. I never did that for a living but certainly did thoughtful forecasting that was infinitely more accurate than what is being demonstrated here. My complaint was with Schuylkill School. I assume you're fine with having to add trailers to a 4 year old school. I'm not fine with it, I'm not as forgiving as you, and I'm not fine with the school district doing a whole laundry list of mismanagement and misspending. Million dollar parking lot bridges, astro turf, buying toxic land....the list goes on and on. And then when we question we get blown off with a look it up comment or the information isn't available. And you are right. I can't wait to leave because after all these years I see it is truly hopeless.
David Curran March 22, 2012 at 06:41 PM
I am sure we agree on a number of issues here. I can vividly remember the anger I felt while driving by the new SES and seeing that old hullk of a fire hazard all fenced off and realizing that the property was not being utilized for the best effect. Trully maddening. All my children have been in PASD schools their entire tenure. Our schools have to be completive with other districts schools or else our children lose. I can understand your/my frustration with these issues but do not feel the situation is hopeless. I sympathize with your mother's position; my own grandmother would not be able to vote (no ID) eventhough she voted in the same firehouse for 60 years because of this new voter ID bill
imwatchingyou March 22, 2012 at 07:09 PM
Don't hate the player, Mr Curran, hate the game.Eleven principals and assistant principals...$1,338,000. Super and assistant Super $350,000. Those are 09-10 figures. $4,859,512 on toxic land. Not a peep from the board when the trial starts. More on that later. $ 46,000 for a forensic audit no word from Chester Co detectives in three years. $ 1,000,000 for two fields in six years. Don't see anyone making s profession team because of that waste of money. Graduates having to take math and science summer courses to get into a state college... see the light yet.
David Curran March 22, 2012 at 07:24 PM
Obama killed the only person I have hated recently. Have you seen the facilities of other school districts? I would say we are about average-maybe less if what you say is true regarding academics. If crimes were committed I would like them punished to the maximum extent. I am just not sure why you feel the present administration (PASD) should be held accountable for legal proceedings they have no control over. Vent your spleen to the appropriate people and keep on "watching" like all concerned citizens should do.
imwatchingyou March 22, 2012 at 07:51 PM
We are watching and it hasn't hit the fan yet. If you are who I think you are ask the board why they had to fire the solar panel electrician and hire a local guy to finish the transfer switch and conduit runs. How much extra was that. And why don't any administrative people live in town. The highest salary doesn't always mean the best. When Fegley goes who is the next best and at what price? Board members cross file for votes and when elected, tax and spend like all democrats. The well is Bone Dry. It has to stop and every taxpayer in town should be up in arms. Contemplating next years tax increase in the Mercury before this budget is adopted is foot in mouth disease.
David Curran March 22, 2012 at 08:14 PM
Not sure what your first couple of sentences refer to, but the rest is just a bunch of rubbage. It is easy from an anonymous position to criticize and second guess others. Manup and put your name out there, better yet run for the board and put your wacky conspiracy theories to the test. Geez.
Su Gould March 22, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Schuylkill parents attending home and school meetings were made aware that the building would be filled immediately. Public areas within the plans were made smaller or cut out altogether. I assume anyone attending the township meetings would have gotten this same info since plans had to be scrapped and redrawn. This is really not new info. I am speaking as a former parent at Schuylkill elem. school. We parents were not pleased with this but the district was not at fault.
imwatchingyou March 22, 2012 at 11:23 PM
These are facts. All my numbers have been documented. I do not begrudge anyone from making a living, but the waste of taxpayer dollars on these frivolous things are not what we bargained for at the salaries that these professionals make.
David Curran March 23, 2012 at 12:03 AM
I never disputed your numbers, or dismissed your frustrations; I just feel that not everything has to be doom and gloom. I am sure we both ultimately want the best for the area and our children
JK March 23, 2012 at 12:34 PM
Everyone wants what is the best for our community. The citizens need to be properly educated as to what we are up against. Bud is correct about the dire situation we are in. There was a recent town hall where the issue of PSERS was addressed. I saw one PASD employee there but how many school board members were there? I have not kept up to date with the teacher's contract disputes but the community and board need to get this under control before the bulk of our tax money goes towards these retirement funds instead of our children.
JK March 23, 2012 at 12:39 PM
To David, I don't judge how our school facilities should be based on what others have. That philosophy is the "where's my fair share" entitlement mentality that is like a cancer.
David Curran March 23, 2012 at 12:49 PM
JK, unfortunately colleges do judge students on what kind of background their prospective students have. Please explain how wanting the best for my children and to be willing to pay for it, constitutes any kind of entitlement mentality
JK March 23, 2012 at 01:08 PM
David, what does wanting the best for your children have to do with how much we spend on a facility or how it looks? Do you think colleges review the facilities of each school district to determine who they accept? Quality education comes from non-tangible items like superior curriculum and staff. If you are willing to pay for a superior education then you are free to do that. Episcopal Academy, Devon and Malvern Prep, the list is endless in our area. My point is that you expect everyone to pay and not just you. The main point is priorities. I don't want an over the top school but i do want an excellent curriculum. In times like these we can't have everything!

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