Octorara’s Enrollment Continues Freefall

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Octorara's Enrollment Continues Freefall

The Octorara Board of Directors held their Facilities and Policy Committee Meetings and the Work Session Meeting was held on Monday, September 12, 2016. Hank Oleyniczak was absent.

How Low Can We Go?

Earlier this year, Dr. Newcome provided the Board with the District’s student population history from 1990-91 to 2015-16. It showed that Octorara’s enrollment had dropped to its lowest since 1994-95. The 2489 student population was a drop of 248 students (a 9% loss) since 2008-09. At the time, I wrote, “Any more losses and we will have to look back 25-30 years to find a lower enrollment number.” Well, get ready…

Last night, Sam Ganow asked Dr. Newcome for Octorara’s 2016-17 student population. At the beginning of the 2016-17 school year, the District has reached a historic low of 2404 students or a 3.4% drop in just one year. This is a loss of 333 students or a 12% decline within 8 years, and a population so low we will have to look back to the 1980s or maybe even 1970s for similar numbers.

I have been trying to make people aware of Octorara’s population problem for a long time and argued for building consolidation. Back in 2013, there were 2,502 students and the trending decline was obvious. Regardless, many Board members at the time were unwilling to accept this reality. Even today, there are Board Members who will describe building consolidation, as a budget-saving measure, as “a stupid idea.” This is despite the fact that the students that were the reason for building the OIS never appeared. Moreover, the children that were the reason for building the PLC have completely vanished.

Why is this happening? I think it is because young families do not find our area attractive. The property taxes are the highest in the area, and continue to go up drastically yer after year. This makes Octorara properties less attractive than other adjacent communities. Add to this the reality that our area has virtually no jobs, no shopping, and no entertainment. Worse yet, businesses are leaving the area or closing faster than new ones coming in. The combination of the District’s high taxes, and a general unwillingness of local municipalities to develop and revitalize the area, means young families are choosing other places.

Push to Change Track Terms… Again

At last nights Facilities Committee, Dr. Newcome gave an update on Track progress, Additional stone for the base has increased the cost by $26,575. Under the terms of the agreement and vote from September 2015, this cost is the responsibility of the Field Development Task Force. The Board approved spending 50% of the cost, not to exceed $210,000. Nonetheless, the total project has increased to $445,508. The Field Development task Force is now responsible for $235,508. Continue reading

Track Field will cost a minimum of $350,000

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.

Facilities Committee

• 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.

Continue reading