November 8, 2015
The Avon Grove School Board is expected to approve Full Day Kindergarten (FDK) in November or early December. FDK would require newly constructed modular classrooms at Penn London Elementary and increase spending by 1.3 - 2.2 million. If the board approves, they will have made this decision without having fully considered the district's overall facilities needs, and without convening a previously planned Community Input Group as promised. This is the first phase of Superintendent Christopher Marchese's 3-phase plan for new school construction in the district.
The AG School Board is expected to approve Full-Day Kindergarten (FDK) in November or early December, 2015. If they do so, this will require construction of modular classrooms at Penn London Elementary and increase spending by 1.3 - 2.2 million. It also will be done without signifigant input from the Facilities Committee. A Community Input Group (CIG) that had been planned to review all facility plans has been put on indefinite hold, and will have no input on this decision either.
Full-Day Kindergarten is the first phase of Superintendent Christopher Marchese's 3-phase plan for the district. The phases are described in his 'Strategic Vision for Facilities' plan presented to the board in April, 2015. The phases are:
The school administration believes that FDK is very beneficial to student performance,
especially for disadvantaged students. They cited statements by the Children's Defense
Fund and others to support the effectiveness of full-day kindergarten.
FDK will have a major impact on the layout and use of school buildings. The extra students
and longer kindergarten school days will require additional classroom space at Penn London
Elementary (PLE). Under the scenario considered most likely, the board will approve the
leasing of modular (i.e.: 'temporary') classrooms at Penn London Elementary due to
Total expenses for installation of module classrooms, hiring staff, and the associated fitting-out of classrooms are estimated by the administration to be 2.2 million. 1.3 million of that is leasing and installation of the modular classrooms themselves; the balance is for fitting-out and staffing. (Interestingly, the Gilbert study put the cost of constructing the modular classrooms at 2.6 million, double the administration's estimate.) These expenses will be partially offset by diverting funds from the Charter School when students move from Charter to AGSD.
The total net cost increase for FDK is estimated by the board to be 1.5 million. However, if fewer students than expected move from the Charter School, AGSD taxpayers will have to bear the full 2.2 million cost of implementation. This represents a 1.3% - 1.7% spending increase over the current year spending budget of 85 million. The board had already been expected to announce a tax hike of 3.1% for 2016/2017.
We believe the rush to approve Full day Kindergarten (FDK), while it may be a very noble and worthwhile goal, is being manipulated to force the board to later approve construction of a new school. The decision to lease rather than purchase the modular classrooms, to delay study by the Facilities Committee, and to put the Community Involvement Group on indefinite hold supports this interpretation.
We urge all citizens in Avon Grove to contact their school directors and let them know how you feel about Full Day Kindergarten and new school construction.