Avon Grove Taxpayers for Responsible Spending


        Citizens, Parents, and Schools working together to bring Avon Grove into the 21st Century!

Facilities Planning Meeting*
Committee of the Whole Meeting
April 3rd, 2018

The School Board met to continue its discussion on the school facilities. The objective of the meeting was to narrow down to 1 option and agree a corresponding budget. 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.   All were present for the discussion.

The following are the options that are being considered:

Build a New High School (Originally FIG Option 1A)
Estimated Cost = $138 million; scaled down version $102 million
Convert PLES to K-1 grade configuration
Convert AGIS to 2-5 grade configuration
Build new high school (HS) on Sunnyside site
Renovate and convert existing HS to 6-8 middle school (MS)
Abandon/demo/sell existing MS
A scaled down version is achieved by downsizing the new HS and a more modest investment to convert the current HS to a MS.

Build a New Middle School (Originally FIG Option 1C)
Estimated Cost = $137million; scaled down version $127 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 and MS, Build new Core Facilities between HS/MS combine to make a HS
A scaled down version is achieved by downsizing the new MS.

Ms Lisi started the meeting by requesting an update on a meeting that was held on March 28th with Mr Beatty, Mr Auerbach, Superintendent Marchese, Mr Carsley, and Phil from Foster Jacobs and Johnson, Inc (FJJ). Phil summarized the meeting discussion by stating that the group reviewed each option and concluded that the lowest cost is $115 million for Option 1C and $102 million for Option 1A.  The lower costs are achieved by reducing the square footage in the buildings.  In the original FIG Option 1A, 190sq ft was allocated per student with 900 sq ft classrooms in the HS.  In the scaled down version, it is slightly more than 150 sq ft/student.  This is a dramatic improvement over the existing HS previously reported to be operating at 117 sq ft per student.  It (150sq ft/student) is the lowest you could go and still have an appropriately sized facility. The reduced cost of Option 1C is the result of a smaller new MS and a smaller connecting space for the current HS and MS. 

Mr Auerbach commented that he still thinks the renovation option (Option 4A) has real potential if developed further but since the board has decided to no longer consider this option he supports building a new HS at the Sunnyside site. Since Mr Engel was unable to attend the last CoW meeting, he was asked his preference for the Sunnyside site: a new HS or a new MS.  He stated he was leaning towards a new HS since it would be less disruptive to the students.  

Mr Billig asked if there is enough space on the Sunnyside site for a new HS.  Phil stated that the site includes sufficient land for a HS, practice fields, and possibly a new stadium.  Building a new stadium at the new HS site within the available space will be tight.  The space constraints were a primary driver for the FIG to choose the new MS option over this one.  There is also the possibility of creating a walkway through restricted wetlands space that provides access to additional land for 4 more practice fields. 

Mr Engel asked if we keep the stadium on the State Rd site, is there money in the HS to MS renovation to create a locker room for the players.  Superintendent Marchese stated that having the stadium a few miles from the HS is not optimal but it could be done; money would need to be included in Option 1A to create locker rooms for the players. 

Mr Wood wanted to explore further the option of building a new MS on the Sunnyside site.  The $127 million 1C Option includes a 130sq ft/student MS.  This MS would be 20% smaller than if we converted the current HS to a MS.  For $115 million, the connecting space between the current HS and MS is half the size of the FIG Option 1C and would not include a new auditorium or gym. 

Superintendent Marchese was asked his preference.  He stated that in 2015 he described his vision for the AG school district.  It included kindergarten (full day) to Grade 1 at PLE, Grades 2-5 at AGI, a Grade 6-8 MS in the current HS, and a new HS on the Sunnyside property. 

Mr Auerbach stated that Option 1A would provide a new HS designed for 21st Century Learning as well as creating a much larger MS by renovating the current HS.  This can be done at a lower cost ($105 million) and with faster timelines compared to Option 1C.  This option also allows the school district to begin the delayed maintenance work on the HS now which includes updating the bathrooms. Current HS students could experience some of these improvements now.  Mr Auerbach stated that he could support a budget of $105 million for Option 1A.  He doesn’t want to borrow the entire amount.  He suggested using some of the cash reserves in the current budget.

Mr Beatty agreed with Mr Auerbach.  He supports a new HS on Sunnyside with the current HS becoming the new MS at a cost of $105 million.

Mr Wood does not support a new HS if it is built at 150 sq ft per student.  He believes a new HS should be at least 160 sq ft per student and would prefer something even larger. 

Ms Lisi stated that she was comfortable with a borrowing limit of $127 million.  It is important to note that this level of borrowing will require the administration to raise taxes to the highest allowable level for 7 years resulting in school taxes increasing by 25% to greater than $1000 for a median assessed house at the end of the 7 years.  Residents would continue to pay this additional amount forever.

Mr Dumont stated that now that the renovation option is no longer being considered, he supports building a new HS on the Sunnyside property.  His maximum budget is $105 million.  He still has concerns that some residents will not be able to afford the increase in taxes but hopes that keeping the cost to this level vs $127 million could reduce some of the burden on the tax payers.

Ms Wolff stated that she is open to building a new HS on the Sunnyside property; 160 sq ft per student seems appropriate.  She is comfortable with a budget from $117 million to $127 million.

Ms Lisi stated that she supports building a new HS.  She believes it is more cost effective to spend the money up front.  She agrees with a budget from $117 million to $127 million.

Ms Weber stated that she still supports the renovation option.  Since that option is no longer under consideration, she believes a new HS offers the most benefit to students.  Her maximum budget is $102 million.

Mr Wood supports a budget of $115 million.  He believes an appropriate size new HS (170 sq ft per student) and renovated MS could be delivered within this budget.  He is reluctant to support Option 1C since it results in a new MS that is too small (130 sq ft per student).

In summary, the nine school board members voted to support building a new HS on the Sunnyside property.  They differed on the budget to support the building of a new HS.

Mr Engel           $127million
Ms Wolff           $117- 127 million
Mr Billig            $117- 127 million
Ms Lisi               $117- 127 million
Mr Wood          $115 million
Mr Auerbach   $105 million
Mr Beatty         $105 million
Ms Weber         $102 million
Mr Dumont      $105 million

Mr Auerbach, Ms Weber, Mr Dumont, and Mr Beatty have elected to support a proposal that originated from FJJ and Dr. Marchese that was presented and discussed at a previous COW meeting.  Mr Auerbach, Mr Beatty, and Mr Dumont stated there were willing add an additional $3 million to provide for a slightly larger HS or further investment in the HS to MS conversion. All expressed their concerns about the ability of residents to deal with the tax increases associated with these borrowing levels.  School taxes could be increased by 25% over 7 years to finance the new facilities as well as to continue to operate the current facilities.

It should be noted that Mr Auerbach, Ms Weber, Mr Dumont, and Mr Beatty originally supported further developing an option that renovated and expanded the current HS as well as removing modular classrooms from all buildings at a $77-80 million. Since this option was rejected by the rest of board, they put their support around the option to build a new HS on the Sunnyside site.

Discussion of the draft resolution for the facilities will be discussed at the next Committee of the Whole Meeting planned for April 12th. The resolution will be voted on at the April 26th School Board meeting.

Question and Answer Sessions for the public have been scheduled at 6-7pm on the following dates:
Monday, April 9th  at Penn London Elementary School
Monday, April 16th at Avon Grove Intermediate School
Thursday, April 19th at the Fred S Engle Middle School
Monday, April 23rd at the Fred S Engle Middle School

It will be a good opportunity to have your questions regarding the new facilities and their associated cost answered.

*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. The District Calendar can be found
here.   Watch the district calendar for updates.  Information about the board, including E-mail addresses, can be found

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