At Thursday’s school board workshop, members heard about progress and plans for the East Pikeland Elementary School project.
Preliminary tests on the inactive well on the site were already done and showed that the chemical dieldrin still exists on the property, according to Superintendent Dr. Alan Fegley. He said Thursday that another well test was planned, as the first one may have given faulty results.
Due to the well being stagnant for so long—the district switched to public water in the early 1990s—the well would need to first be flushed to get a better picture of dieldrin concentrations in the groundwater, Fegley explained.
After the meeting, Stan Johnson, executive director of operations, said the flushing should not affect neighboring wells, from his understanding. The flushing process just gives a better picture of chemicals present in an active well.
Fegley told the board what he’d a few days earlier. The geophysical testing will act as an X-ray of the full East Pikeland Elementary site, excluding areas under existing structures. The tests should show any dieldrin canisters that may be buried on the site, going as deep as the planned construction on the site will.
Fegley reiterated his pledge to remediate any dieldrin issues on the site if the school land is indeed the source of the contamination. A study done by the district in early 2010 indicated that the source was likely two dumping sites within a mile of the elementary school, which is located at Hares Hill and West Seven Stars roads.
At the East Pikeland supervisors meeting, a neighborhood coalition that opposes the school expansion brought an evaluation of environmental conditions for the site. That document showed that the source is “in the vicinity of the school.”
Fegley also informed the board that the 14 waiver requests brought by the district were tabled by the board of supervisors pending the results of the geophysical testing and well testing planned for the site. The superintendent added that the administration and district representatives are working closely with the township’s Environmental Advisory Council (EAC). The geophysical survey is planned for later this week and should cost the district less than $10,000, and including the well testing.
School board member Dr. Daniel Cushing said he was unsure what the well testing would accomplish.
“Why not solve the issue of the source?” Cushing asked.
Kenneth Butera, another board member, agreed, saying the well testing on a well that hasn’t been operational for more than two decades seems “a bit redundant.”
Johnson explained that the township’s EAC requested the well sample from the school site to see if any changes occurred in the characteristics of the groundwater.
Board Member Betsy Ruch took issue with the number of requests made of the school district for the elementary expansion project.
“In other words, they’re running up our bills,” Ruch said.
More requirements means more money paid by district taxpayers, she explained.
Board Member David Ziev said that the district’s cooperation in overcoming objections was something that was necessary to move the district “closer to the goalpost” of making the project a reality.
During the public comment portion of the school board meeting, resident Jennifer Clemens thanked the district for working to make the expansion a reality. Heating problems in the elementary school have caused children to visit the nurse's office, she said, and she cited other issues with the current state of the school.
"It's in dire need of upgrade," Clemens said.
The proposed elementary school expansion involves demolishing a 1960s addition, keeping the remaining 1930s structure and building on to add additional capacity to accommodate 600 students. The building currently houses 310 students. All of the district’s kindergarten students would be relocated to East Pikeland Elementary for the next five years. After that, the whole school will be turned over to grades one through five.
Fegley has in the past called the current elementary school “woefully inadequate” for the district’s needs, and he said he’d be requesting temporary trailers as early as fall of this year to accommodate for the growing enrollment needs at the East Pikeland site.
Forward movement on the project is expected after the environmental testing is completed. A continuation of the zoning hearing was postponed last week following the decision by the board of supervisors to table action on the waiver requests.