The Octorara Area School District Board of Directors held its monthly Work Session meeting on November 10, 2014, as well as the Facilities Committee Meeting. Eight Board Members were in attendance at the Work Session, Samuel Ganow was absent.
During the Work Session, the Board was presented the Agenda Items to be voted on at the Regular Meeting on November 17th. There were no Presentations, Visitor Comments, or Informational Items.
• Chester County Solid Waste Authority – There has been a proposed date of April 25, 2015 for Hazardous Waste collection.
• High School Water Infiltration – The responsible companies and contractors are still seeking bids for the work, and negotiating with each other on who is most responsible to pay the cost.
• King Farm – The District is still in negotiation on an agreement to continue renting the property for farming. When asked, the Committee expressed no interest in finding another use or selling the property, with at least one member still expressing faith in the 2003 Feasibility Report that a population explosion is due the area.
The 2003 Feasibility Report was the document that was used as the basis for purchasing 50 acres of adjacent farmland, building the Intermediate School, and expanding the High School. The document is now 11 years old, the data used to create it is outdated and no longer valid, and the projections have been proved detrimentally wrong.
It was these decisions, based on that 2003 Feasibility Report, that are the #1 cause of both our extremely high taxes and the District’s poor financial outlook. Continuing to base choices on this document is, in my opinion, delusional.
• YMCA Agreement – A tentative agreement has been reached with rent increases of 3% now written into the lease.
• High School Cafeteria – New tables have been ordered to replace the existing old and damaged ones.
• Junior High Key System – The District is doing a door inventory in order to rekey & relock doors. It is part of a long range plan to get all buildings under one master key system.
• Junior High Water – The Jr High is experiencing “brown water” on Monday mornings, with a weekend on non-use. There is a plan to drain the hot water tank over the Thanksgiving break to try and remove sediment that is causing the problem.
• High School Roof – The cause of a leak into the girl’s locker room was discovered and patched. The area was not part of the recent renovation.
• Junior High Elevator – It has been determined the lift has reached the end of its life. The Committee is weighing the option of replacing the exiting (at a cost of about $22,000, which can then be done over the Winter Break) or installing a 3 stop unit (which will cost $40,000 plus engineering costs, and will need to be made into a Summer project).
• Project Close-Out Audit – The District is required by PlanCon to complete a close-out audit on the High School Addition and Renovation. They are seeking pricing.
• Field Development – The Field Development Committee (this time thru Mr Stoltzfus) informed the Facilities Committee that repairing the Track Field will cost a minimum of $350,000, and again asked, “How much of that would the Board be willing to pay?”
Once again, the conversation revolved around school use vs competitive use. The $350,000+ renovation is only needed because of the desire for competitive Track & Field purposes.
Currently the Field Development Committee has about $49,000, and it was stated it could take them 5 years to reach a goal of $100,000. Agreeing to pay the difference would tie the hands of a future Board and a future group of Boosters.
Shawna Johnson reminded members that the District did not add any money to the Soccer & Football field, and only spent money to replace the bleachers which were for community use.
Sheri Melton expressed concerns about the need for capital funds in other more pressing areas, such as security infrastructure.
I reminded members that we have a $25 Million renovation to the Jr High that needs to be planned for, and there are not unlimited funds. On the list of items from the Long Range Plan, spending of this kind needs to be low priority.
Brian Norris attempted to argue that being able to have the Track & Field team host at home is important for students and their parents.
At the end of it, no decision was made, with the discussion focused on want vs need. In my opinion, the decision to spend money on the Track Field cannot be made in a vacuum. For all the reasons we may like to upgrade the Track, the District is in financial difficulty and we must make the best use of taxpayer dollars.
School Performance Profile Scores
While the Education Committee received a preview of the School Performance Profile score last month, now that the PA Department of Education has done their public release, Elena Wilson, Director of Curriculum, will be doing the presentation to the whole Board at next week’s Regular Meeting.