Clearfield School District moves toward consolidation|
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
By Jeff Corcino Staff Writer
The Clearfield Area School District decided to move forward with plans to close the middle school and Centre and Bradford elementary schools and will hold a public hearing on the closures in October.
At last night's meeting the school board decided to direct its architecture firm, HHSDR, Architects, Engineers Inc. of Sharon, that the board intends to move forward with the options that would close the three schools
Last week, HHSDR presented the board with three options for the schools, with options one and two calling for the closure of all three schools and renovating Clearfield Elementary to accommodate grades 1-6, with option three calling for the closure of the middle school and renovating Clearfield, Bradford and Centre to keep them open.
Option one would expand the kitchen and cafeteria and reconfigure the cafeteria of Clearfield Elementary as well as add additional classroom space on the east side of the building; option two would not expand the kitchen and cafeteria but would add additional classroom space; and option three would be to renovate Centre and Bradford elementary schools to keep them open, according to a previous article in The Progress.
Construction costs for option one is expected to be $10.4 million, option two $8.8 million and option three $9.3 million. However, because of cost savings from consolidating into two buildings, the district would save at least $700,000 roughly in yearly costs due to lower utility, maintenance and staffing expenses while option three would increase the district's costs by roughly $60,000 per year in costs if implemented.
HHSDR has proposed a plan to consolidate all of the district's classrooms and administration into two buildings by moving grades seven and eight and the administration offices to the high school and grades one through six going to Clearfield Elementary School.
To accomplish this, both the high school and the elementary school would need to be expanded. A $34 million expansion/renovation project is already underway at the high school but no final decision has been made on what will be done with the elementary schools.
Before any school can be closed the state requires the district to hold an Act 780 hearing to give the public a chance to express their views on the subject and the board voted to hold a single hearing on all three schools on Oct. 8 starting at 6 p.m. at the middle school auditorium.
The board discussed having three separate hearings, one for each school to be closed but decided on a combined hearing because much of the same information would be given out at all three meetings.
District Solicitor Aimee Willett recommended that the board be clear in its advertising that the hearing is for the closing of all three schools and suggested it be placed on the district's website as well so the public is informed that it is happening.
State law requires districts to wait a minimum of three months after an Act 780 hearing before voting to close any school, which would make early January the earliest the board could vote to close any of the three schools.
Board president Dave Glass said the board has not made any definitive decision on which option it is choosing, and is only giving HHSDR Architects, Engineers Inc. some overall direction on which path it is leaning. Glass said district can change its plans right up until it accepts construction bids for the schools and said the board will be having open discussions on what will be done with the schools in the coming months and said the public will have ample opportunity to express its views on the subject before any final decision is made.
During the public comment period Gail Ralston of Clearfield asked if the board was rushing its decision since it only received the options from HHSDR last week.
Although the board did not take an official vote, Glass asked each board member their opinion on which options they favored. Six of the eight board members present said they were in favor of the consolidation options.
Board member Dr. Michael Spencer said he is in favor of consolidating the schools saying the state is pushing them down this road. He said the state is forcing districts to be as efficient as possible on costs and said the district consolidating all of its classrooms into two buildings is the most cost efficient.
Because of the state's push for greater efficiency, Spencer said in five or 10 years many smaller districts will be forced to merge with neighboring school districts to save on costs.
Susan Mikesell said she, too, is in favor of consolidating the buildings saying keeping them open "doesn't make sense." Glass agreed saying option three renovations are only temporary fixes and would kick the decision to another school board five to ten years down the road.
Board member Mary Anne Jackson said she agreed with consolidating the schools not only because of the cost savings but also said the location of the neighborhood schools no longer fits the needs of the community.
Board member Jennifer Wallace expressed concerns over the length of time students would be on the bus if the schools were closed and Philip Carr said he is in favor of keeping the neighborhood schools open, and said he was "skeptical" of HHSDR's cost estimates. Board member Richard Schickling was absent.
In other business, Bruce Nicolls, coordinator of federal programs, director of curriculum, gave a brief summary on the district's PSSA test scores.
Nicolls said the district's test scores are still unofficial and will be giving a detailed analysis of the scores when they become official.
He said Clearfield Elementary, Bradford Elementary and Girard-Goshen Elementary met all state targets and made Adequate Yearly Progress. He said the middle school missed only one of the nine state targets, the low income subgroup missed its math target, Centre missed on its overall reading score, and the high school missed on its overall math score but said its low income subgroup made its math target, which is opposite from last year when the school's overall math score made its target but the low income subgroup missed.
Nicolls said the high school met the state's target in overall graduation rate but the low-income subgroup missed its graduation rate target.
When asked on how the new Chicago Math curriculum is going at the high school, Nicolls said in all of the classrooms in where it was implemented scores either increased or stayed the same, which is encouraging because one often sees a slight decline in scores the first year a curriculum is implemented.
Because it made AYP last year, Centre Elementary goes on warning status this year for missing on reading. Because the middle school and high school missed its targets in previous years, they are on corrective action status, Nicolls said.