Avon Grove Taxpayers for Responsible Spending


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February 13, 2018

Committee of the Whole Meeting


February 8, 2018 

The School Board met with by Foster Jacobs & Johnson, Inc (FJJ) to discuss facilities planning.  This was a continuation of the Committee of the Whole (CoW) Meeting from January 30th. The objective of the meeting was to discuss the pros and cons of the 4 facilities options agreed at the last meeting.  School Board members include: Ms Tracy Lisi (Chair), Mr John Auerbach, Mr Charles Beatty, Mr Jeff  Billig, Mr Rick Dumont, Mr Herman Engel, Ms Lynn Weber, Mr Bill Wood, and Ms Bonnie Wolff.

Before the discussion on the options began, Mr. Auerbach requested clarification on what the school board will be voting on in April.  He also wanted a commitment that the parking lot issues will be addressed prior to any vote.  Superintendent Christopher Marchese stated that he expected a vote on whether the school board plans to do a project regarding the facilities, how much the school board plans to borrow, and what educational needs are being met.  FJJ stated that parking lot issues will be addressed in time for the next CoW meeting.

FJJ presented the following proposed square footage (ft2) for each building (without including ft2 associated with the modular classrooms and without 6-8 grade realignment): 

Penn London Elementary (PLE) School: 106,500 to 118,678 ft2 (­+12, 178 ft2)
Avon Grove Intermediate (AGI) School:210,000 to 211,063 ft2 (­+1,063 ft2)
Fred S Engle Middle School: 117, 490 to 143,124 839 ft2 (­+25,634 ft2)
High School:  214, 104 to 340,094 ft2 (+­125,990 ft2) 

If grade realignment occurs in the middle school, no additional sq footage would be needed for PLE and the AGI.  The middle school would need to include 209,926 ft2 which would be an increase of 92,436 ft2.

Mr Auerbach questioned the increase in size of the high school (­125,990 ft2) in light that the enrollment is expected to decline over the next 10 years. 

The school board agreed that they want all the modular classrooms to be removed though there was no consensus on the timing of when they should be removed.  

FJJ then presented the project options for further discussion and evaluation.

FIG Option 1A  - $140 Million
Convert PLES to K-1 grade configuration
Convert AGIS to 2-5 grade configuration
Build new HS on Sunnyside site
Renovate and convert existing HS to 6-8 MS
Abandon/demo/sell existing MS

 $100 million was allocated to build a new high school including practice fields but not a new stadium.  There were concerns regarding whether the Sunnyside site was big enough for a new high school and a stadium.  There were also concerns that there wouldn’t be adequate parking spaces for the students.  $40 million was allocated to convert the existing high school to a new middle school.

Mr Dumont and Mr Billig wanted information on the number of additional classrooms and the size of classrooms that would be available in the new high school along with the size of the auditorium.  Mr Wood stated that it is important to make school facilities as adaptable as possible and questioned whether a renovated building could be as adaptable as a new building.

 FIG Option 1C - $138 Million
Convert PLES to K-1 grade configuration
Convert AGIS to 2-5 grade configuration
Build new grade 6-8 MS on Sunnyside site
Renovate existing HS, Build new Core Facilities between HS/MS combine to make a HS

In FIG Option 1C, a new middle school would be built at a cost of $64 million.  The high school and the middle school would be combined and then fully renovated to be compliant with ADA standards at a cost of $74 million. Though the core space between the middle school and the high school will provide some flexible space, it was not considered to be as adaptable as a new high school building.  Mr Dumont expressed concerns that it could difficult for students to move from one side of the building to the other side of the building in a timely manner.

An important downside of this option is that the high school which is the facilities most in need of work will not be addressed until 2023.  The middle school will be built first.

FIG Option 1D - $124 Million
Convert PLES to K-1 grade configuration
Convert AGIS to 2-5 grade configuration
Renovate and add to existing MS (6-8 grade structure)
Renovate and add to existing HS

$76 million was allocated to renovate and create additional space in the high school.  $48 million was allocated to renovate and create additional space into the middle school to support grade realignment.  There was concern that core spaces in this option will be undersized and that there will be less parking available.  Adding additional space to the middle school could require an update of the entire facilities to ADA standards.  Use of a field behind the middle school would also be lost. 

Option 4A - $92 Million
Renovate and expand HS to appropriate size (remove modular)
Expand MS (7-8) to remove modular classrooms and build to demographic projection
Expand PLES (K-2) to remove modular classrooms and build to demographic projection
AGIS (3-6) build to demographic projection

$78 million was allocated to renovate and add exiting space to the high school.  Work on the middle school and PLE were also included in this option to eliminate the modular classrooms ($14million).  Mr Auerbach stated that an important aspect of this option is that it addresses the needs of the school district immediately by focusing efforts on the high school first and doing it in a cost effective way.   It is also in alignment with the top priority of the listening post sessions which was renovation and maintenance of the high school.

FJJ then presented a heat map for the 4 options.  There was push back from Mr Auerbach and Ms Weber on the criteria used to make the determinations.  It was difficult to understand how Option 4a which focused on the high school immediately could be classified as yellow instead of green for the need labeled “high school renovation and maintenance”.  It wasn’t clear how Option 1C which doesn’t address the high school until 2023 could be yellow instead of red.  Also building the high school on the Sunnyside property which would separate the high school from the stadium was given a green instead of a red or yellow for the need labeled “fields and outdoor space”. How the options impacted the need labeled “teacher/staff retention” was not clear.  It seemed that overall any option including new facilities was more likely to receive a green rating than an option that included renovation of the buildings. FJJ acknowledged that the determinations were subjective and suggested the school board make their own determinations.

The next facilities planning meeting will be February 27th in the Middle School.  The meeting will continue the discussion of the project options, address parking lot issues and discuss financing for the project.  The March meetings will narrow the discussion to 2 options.  A final decision is planned for April.​

Call to Action - It is important that your position on increasing taxes and building new school facilities is heard. It is critical that community members attend upcoming school board meetings and/or send letters via e-mail to the school board and administration to make their position known. 

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E-mail links to the school board can be found

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