The Methacton School Board will meet tonight to hear comments and considerations from the public as it reviews two recently commissioned studies on enrollment and capacity for its five elementary schools, two middle schools and high school. The public sessions are slated for Monday and Wednesday at Arcloa’s auditorium to begin at 6:30 p.m. Up for discussion is the possible closing of either or both Arcola and Arrowhead elementary schools.
Many district parents are challenging the findings of the studies well before the open meeting sessions. Organizing meetings, Facebook pages and statistical data, the parents’ groups plan to speak during tonight’s meetings.
“Parents in the Methacton School District in Lower Providence and Worcester townships are demanding answers about alleged mismanagement of the school district budget that has led the school board to propose shuttering two elementary schools and displacing over 700 students in grades K-4 while simultaneously approving the construction of a $5 million athletic field,” said media contact for the groups, Andre Goldstein, who sent a release to area media outlets regarding the issue.
Parents in the Methacton School District, which serves over 5,000 children in Lower Providence and Worcester counties, are fighting to keep the two elementary schools open despite a recent announcement, which stated the district may close either or both facilities. During a Feb. 3 special meeting, the district heard the results by the Pennsylvania Economic League (PEL). Following the findings, the school board said that both schools were “on the chopping block.”
Goldstein and other organizing parents don’t agree with the findings at all.
“Methacton Superintendent Dr. David Zerbe and Methacton school board president Christian Nascimento cite recent student enrollment and building capacity studies as well as a budget deficit as the reason for the proposed school closings,” said Goldstein’s release. “Parents are outraged, citing numerous flaws in the data including; artificially low enrollment numbers, increased class sizes, overestimated capital improvement needs and the implying that rooms being used to educate special needs students are redundant.”
It seems confusing to residents as the district both cites financial shortages, but also aims to build a new athletic complex at the high school.
“We believed our school system was financially solvent as evidenced by, less than a month ago, the school board awarding over $4,900,000 in mostly out-of-state contracts for the construction of an Astroturf athletic field, which has been in the works for a number of years,” said Arrowhead parent, Andrew Sandner. “The news of these potential school closings was a complete shock.”
Another major concern about the potential closings is the lack of knowledge about what would happen to students after such closures.
“Methacton parents also have serious misgivings about the board’s decision to keep its plans for how these displaced students will be redistributed a secret from parents and taxpayers until the Feb. 23 board meeting,” said Goldstein. “Due the school board’s aggressive timetable, parents have been given only three weeks to review over 160 pages of data and reports. In contrast, a district enrollment study conducted in 2005 was a collaborative effort conducted over nine months by a committee of teachers, parents, district administrators and community leaders leading many parents to question the transparency of this process.”
The parents are seeking a more equal timeframe given due to the gravity of the announcement.
“We trusted that our elected school board was making educationally sound decisions for our youngest students, who are just building the foundation of their education. But they don’t seem to be able to responsibly balance those needs with the budget concerns,” said Ashley Power, parent of an Arrowhead student.
Methacton School District, according to the parent’s findings, is a community of about 13,000 households in suburban Philadelphia in southeastern Pennsylvania with a total enrollment of over 5,000 students. Arcola Intermediate School, site of the Feb. 23 board meeting, is located at 4001-A Eagleville Rd, Eagleville, PA 19403. All of the public is welcome to attend.