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School Board hosts second facilities forum

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School Board hosts second facilities forum

The School Board held a second facilities forum Tuesday night to discuss the status of various renovation projects.

The School Board held a second facilities forum Tuesday night to discuss the status of various renovation projects.

Connor Niszczak

The School Board held a second facilities forum Tuesday night to discuss the status of various renovation projects.

Connor Niszczak

Connor Niszczak

The School Board held a second facilities forum Tuesday night to discuss the status of various renovation projects.

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HATFIELD- “These are very important decisions. We need your input. We need your feedback.”

That is how Superintendent Dr. Curt Dietrich kicked off the second facilities forum of the 2018-19 school year.

Replacing the April work session, the North Penn School Board held a facilities forum at Pennfield Middle School where members of the community were encouraged to come out and hear presentations regarding the status of a number of district renovation projects, as well as bring their own concerns or questions for the Board.

Board members Tina Stoll, Jonathan Kassa, and Juliane Ramic, along with Todd Bauer and Jenna Rufo, sat down with Director of Facilities and Operations Scott Kennedy, Chief Financial Officer Steve Skrocki, and architect David Schrader, to discuss the Crawford Stadium, Knapp Elementary, NPHS renovations, and possible construction of a 9th Grade Center.

Dietrich moderated the event and took questions from members of the audience, while NPHS Senior Sam Santangelo read questions sent in via NPTV’s Youtube page and from Facebook, where the forum was being streamed live.

The forum began with a presentation from Schrader to give an update on the Knapp renovation project. He discussed different possibilities of what a renovated Knapp may look like, how 21st century learning styles would be incorporated into the new building, and an estimated timeline, which has construction being completed in the summer of 2022. $20 million has already been borrowed for the Knapp renovations, and the project is expected to cost between $24-26 million.

Kennedy then provided additional information on the Crawford Stadium project, which is currently in motion. The district hopes to receive their land development approval this summer so that construction can begin in late fall of 2019, and be substantially completed by graduation for the Class of 2020. Crawford Stadium is expected to be fully completed by the start of the fall sports season for the 2020-2021 school year. The renovations are expected to cost approximately $5.2 million.

Bauer and Rufo then gave very thorough and wide ranging information about the possibility of moving 9th grade to the NPHS campus, and the construction of a special 9th Grade Center. After hearing feedback from district parents, middle school principals, teachers, and students, the overwhelming majority had a positive reaction about the idea of moving 9th grade to the high school. Some of the main benefits discussed were that 9th graders would have more access to special electives and extracurriculars (engineering, JROTC, languages, arts, theater, NMTCC), curriculum could be better aligned, and that an overall sense of school community would become even stronger after being in the same building for an additional year. Some concerns raised were if 4,000 students on the same campus would just simply be too much, if the maturity levels between 14 and 18 year olds is too large, and if the building would remain safe with the addition of another thousand students.

All 9th Grade Center discussions are still purely hypothetical as no tangible decisions have been made, but the most talked about version is having a separate wing built on to NPHS that would be used strictly for ninth grade students.

It would give our ninth grade students the experience of dipping your toe into high school, which would help ease their transition from a middle to high school environment”

— Jenna Rufo

“It would give our ninth grade students the experience of dipping your toe into high school, which would help ease their transition from a middle to high school environment,” remarked Rufo.

Schrader then provided some information on what construction of a new 9th grade facility would look like. He said that a new building would be approximately 200,000 sq. ft., and would share athletic, food service, performing arts, and STEM spaces with the rest of the building. Schrader stressed the fact that any type of new building would have to be able to physically last and be able to adapt to changing educational needs for a minimum of 30 years.

“A question we have to ask ourselves is how do you create a building that needs to be around for 30+ years that will also be able to adapt to changing educational needs for those years?” remarked Schrader.

Estimated costs of building a new building from the ground up is $70-75 million, while renovating or adding on to the existing high school could cost between $160-65 million.

Schraders’ current timeline has construction of the 9th Grade Center beginning between Sep. 2019 and Aug. 2023 and ending between June and Dec. of 2027.

CFO Steve Skrocki then broke down how much each renovation project could cost, how it will affect the district’s debt, and how much taxes would increase for the average homeowner.

Knapp renovations are expected to cost $25,669,153, and will be paid using bond issues. Crawford Stadium is expected to cost $5,200,000, and will be paid using funds allocated from the capital reserve fund. A 9th Grade Center would cost approximately $71,612,428, and paid with bond issues. North Penn High School renovations could cost $163,372,356, and paid using bond issues.

The district currently has a deficit of $118.5 million, but the Knapp and North Penn High School renovations could balloon the deficit to roughly $515 million.

Although the district will pay a hefty price for all of these renovations, there will not be an overwhelming bill for the average homeowner. For those whose homes have an assessed value of $147,965, their taxes will increase by $103 a year for a span of 28 years. Skrocki emphasized that that tax increase is strictly for the renovations, and not including any non-renovation related increases that could come.

After the presentations, Dietrich took questions from parents, teachers, and members of the community.

“I am so glad to see a number of Knapp teachers here, because we have been talking with many stakeholders, but some of the most important stakeholders truly are teachers,” expressed Ramic.

One parent worried that with all the focus on renovations, if there will be any building adjustments made based on whether or not there is enough room for full day kindergarten.  

Rufo assured that the only school where there is any concern about overcrowding is Inglewood, and the district is prepared with how to handle that if some students will need to be placed in other schools.

Another concerned parent felt that Crawford Stadium was being focused on too much, and she believed that proper air conditioning in elementary and middle schools is a more important issue. The mom felt that a much larger percentage of the student body would benefit from air conditioning.

The Board clarified that no decisions have been made yet, nor has the Board prioritized any projects yet. The forum was the first step in hearing from the community.

“That is the purpose of this forum- to share where we are right now, and to get input from the community,” concluded Kassa.

 

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