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Avon Grove Special School Board Meeting

August 12, 2019


ACT 34 Hearing Progressing Despite Incomplete Information on Project Costs

Misleading Information included in the ACT 34 Book regarding Vote for the new High School

 All members of the school board attended the meeting including: Mr. John Auerbach, Mr. Charles Beatty, Mr. Jeff Billig, Mr. Rick Dumont, Mr. Herman Engel, Ms. Tracy Lisi, Ms. Lynn Weber, Ms. Bonnie Wolff, and Mr. Bill Wood.  The objective of the meeting was to (1) approve the content of the ACT 34 handbook that will be used in an upcoming ACT 34 hearing regarding the new high school project; (2) approve Resolution 20-7 [19-08-12] regarding the conduct of an ACT 34 hearing; and (3) approve the advertising of a notice to the public regarding the hearing date and its objective. 

The purpose of the Act 34 hearing is to present the proposed construction of a new high school to the residents and employees of the District and to provide them with a public forum to express their opinion regarding the project. It is an opportunity for the public to learn about the proposed construction projects and for the Board to receive and record comments and observations regarding the project. The ACT 34 hearing is mandatory for school districts applying for PA state reimbursement of a portion of their building costs (PlanCon). 

Meeting Agenda: http://go.boarddocs.com/pa/avongrove/Board.nsf/goto?open&id=BDAR996C9339

Link to ACT 34 handbook:

 The meeting began with a presentation describing the costs associated with the High School project and how the numbers included in the proposed resolution were calculated.

Link to the Proposed Resolution:

The resolution states that Avon Grove School District authorizes a maximum project cost of $114,568,737 and a maximum building construction cost of $81,101,789 for the project.  The $114,568,737 includes $8,834,227 already paid by the school district for the site.  It does not include $1,900,000 for PennDOT requirements which may not cover all the costs necessary to optimize traffic flow at the site for the new high school.  The maximum building costs have a buffer of + 8%.  At $107 million, the High School project continues to be $2 million over a maximum cost which leaves limited money for the high school to middle school conversion.  In addition, the budget does not cover the costs that will likely emerge to obtain Penn Township’s approval for the land development plan.  The $1.9 million allocated to address PennDOT requirements does not include all that is needed for turning lanes at the site entrances and for the intersection at Route796 and Pennock Bridge Road.

During the meeting, Mr Auerbach, Ms Weber, and Mr Dumont expressed concerns regarding the timing of the ACT 34 hearing.  One of the hearing’s objectives is to present the cost of the project to the public.  They questioned how this can be done when we don’t know the costs associated with any requirements from PennDOT and Penn Township needed to gain their approval for the high school project.  In addition, the $127 million allocated by the school board for the facilities project includes both building a new high school and renovating/converting the current high school to a middle school.  The cost to deliver a functioning middle school for our students has not been detailed.  Since the high school project is currently $2 million over budget, this could result in at most $20 million being available for the middle school project.  Based on a preliminary assessment of costs for a new roof, new HVAC system, boilers, fire alarms/sprinklers, sewers lines etc, there may not be enough money to repair the auditorium, do a much needed upgrade to the bathrooms, replace floor tile, make the building ADA compliant, as well as move the main office closer to the main entrance.  The amount of money left for the middle school could be even less depending on PennDOT and Penn Township requirements for the high school project.  Also, no money has been allocated to repurpose the current middle school.  Where will these funds come from? Doesn’t the school board need to have some of these answers before they commit to the cost of the new high school project with the public?

In addition, the ACT 34 booklet states that no increase in costs is anticipated for personnel, material or supplies for the new high school unless there are program changes.  Since much of the driver for the new high school was about adding new programs and capabilities this seems unrealistic.

Unfortunately, the concerns expressed by Mr Auerbach, Ms Weber, and Mr Dumont were ignored.  Mr. Engel, Ms. Lisi, Ms. Wolff, Mr. Wood, and Mr. Billig stated that they wanted to push ahead.  They didn’t want to do anything that could potentially delay the start of construction in the spring of 2020.  They stated that any additional costs could be dealt with prior to the start of construction.

Based on the school board’s positive vote (6-3 with Mr Auerbach, Ms Weber, and Mr Dumont voting no), the ACT 34 hearing will take place on September 12, 2019 beginning at 6:30PM in the high school auditorium.  Residents can provide comments prior to the meeting, at the meeting, and after the meeting. 

Written Comments Prior to the Meeting:
Residents and employees of the School District may submit written testimony regarding the proposed projects no later than 6:00 PM on Thursday, September 12, 2019. Such written testimony should be mailed or delivered to:

Dr. Wendi Lee Kraft, Board Secretary
Avon Grove School District
375 South Jennersville Road
West Grove, PA 19390

The written testimony should include the name and address of the person submitting the request, identification of the sender as a District resident or employee, name of project of concern and a description of the support or objection to the project. To be of most benefit to the Board, a statement of objection should be followed by a viable alternate solution.

Verbal Presentations at the Hearing:
Any District resident or employee wishing to make a verbal presentation is asked to complete a public comment form. The public comment forms will be located on a back table in the meeting space. Forms are also available prior to public meetings through Board Docs. The Board of School Directors requests that members of the public complete the form and submit it to Mr. Dan Carsley, Business Manager, prior to the start of the meeting. During the verbal presentation section of the meeting, the presiding officer will call individuals to the podium in the order the forms were submitted.

When making their verbal presentation, individuals should identify themselves by name, address, resident or employee, and present their comments or questions. If objections are raised, it would be beneficial if the individual proposed what should be done to solve the problem being addressed and how the Board might accomplish the suggested change. Individuals are permitted to make one verbal presentation, limited to three (3) minutes.

Written Comments Following the Hearing:
 For a period of thirty (30) days following the hearing, School District residents and employees who wish to have their written comments regarding the project included in the material forwarded to the Pennsylvania Department of Education should mail or deliver such statements to:

Dr Wendi Lee Kraft, Board Secretary
Avon Grove School District
375 South Jennersville Road
West Grove, PA 19390

Any such comments must be submitted no later than 4:00 PM on October 14th, 2019. All written comments should include the name and address of the person submitting the comments, identification of the sender as a resident or employee, and a description of the support or objection to the project.

Misleading information in the ACT 34 Handbook (pg 11):
Text on pg 11 of the ACT 34 handbook states that on April 26, 2018 “By a vote of 9-0, the Board of School Directors for the Avon Grove School District approved the following resolution in support of the plan defined by option 1A.”  Option 1A includes: Building a new high school at the “Jennersville” site; renovating and converting the existing high school to a middle school with grades 6-8; converting Avon Grove Intermediate School (AGIS) to a 2-5 grade configuration; and abandoning, demolishing, leasing, or selling the existing middle school.

This statement is made after the 4 options regarding the facilities are presented on pgs 9-10.  However, the handbook does not make clear that on April 26th, only 2 of the 4 options were voted on: Option 1A as described above and Option C which includes building a new middle school at the “Jennersville” site; renovating the existing high school and building a new core facility between the current middle school and high school to create a new high school campus; and converting AGIS to a 2-5 grade configuration.

Options 1D (which included renovating and expanding the existing high school; converting Penn London Elementary School to a K-1 grade configuration; converting AGIS to a 2-5 grade configuration; and renovating and expanding the existing middle school to create 6-8 grade span) and Option 4A (which included renovating and expanding the existing high school to an appropriate size and remove modular classrooms; expanding the existing middle school (7-8) to remove modular classrooms and building to demographic projection; expanding Penn London Elementary School (K-2) to remove modular classrooms and build to demographic projection; and building Avon Grove Intermediate School (3-6) to demographic projection) were not part of vote on April 26, 2018.  It is important to note that only the options that involved the building of new facilities on “Jennersville” site (either a new HS or a new MS) were considered.  Any options to renovate the current high school and not build a new facility were removed from consideration by a majority of board (Mr. Engel, Ms. Lisi, Ms. Wolff, Mr. Wood, and Mr. Billig) prior to the April 26th vote.