Following a lengthy public hearing during which the Board of School Directors for Methacton School District heard recaps of both a Pennsylvania Economic League (PEL) enrollment study, as well as the Thompson Architectural Associates’ study on school capacity in the district. Following the recapped studies, Superintendent Dr. David Zerbe recommended the closure of Audubon Elementary School.
The recommendation came on the heels of the presentation of seven options as presented by Thompson’s president, John Thompson.
“The consultant identified several distinguishing characteristics to keep Arrowhead,” said Zerbe. “They include:
· Arrowhead is geographically situated for less disruption district-wide when redrawing attendance areas
· Arrowhead has 26 classrooms compared to Audubon’s 23
· Arrowhead’s single-story construction is more conducive to future expansion and construction
· Arrowhead is located in a low-traffic, residential area
· Arrowhead’s, facility at 44 years, has more useful life remaining.”
Due to those recommendations, as outlined by Thompson in his presentation of slides, Zerbe went with Option 3 of the seven.
“I recommend that the board close Audubon Elementary School and redraw attendance areas in the K-4 elementary configuration,” he said. The move, in his words, would be “likely to impact all of our attendance areas going forward.”
Statements from parents followed, including four different groups of speakers lined up along the Arcola Intermediate School auditorium walls. Many in the crowd that filled the space, forcing auxiliary seating at the rear of the room to be opened, stayed as the clock approached nearly the 11 o’clock hour to hear all that had to be said. Not one single person that spoke was in favor of the closures.
However, it was a statement that was uttered as the public began to exit that might make more waves for concerned citizens who spoke out against transparency, noting they “mistrust the board” and do not feel information is being provided with proper amounts of time for digestion and understanding.
Zerbe announced as the meeting dismissed, following the closure of the Public Hearing by Solicitor Frank Bartle, that there would be more to come during Tuesday night’s Board of Directors’ meeting. The regularly scheduled meeting is to fall, starting at 7 p.m. in the Methacton High School LGI Room, according to the posted agenda. However, the words uttered by Zerbe following the hearing are not to be found on the currently available Agenda.
Zerbe informed Board President Christian Nascimento and his fellow directors that he will be asking for several items during the board’s meeting.
“I will be asking during our regularly scheduled meeting for a request to redraw attendance lines, look at transportation needs and gather the information needed in order to make this process run smoothly,” said Zerbe against the shuffle of exiting residents. “I will also be asking at the same meeting to form a representative committee.”
Few may have heard the statement, as microphones were breaking up. Also, no such “new business” is listed under the board’s action items for Tuesday night’s meeting. There is no listing at all of the aforementioned requests on the current agenda, as posted on AgendaManager, the district’s website, as late as after 3 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon.
Zerbe had mentioned, earlier in the hearing, that he would recommend a committee consisting of parents, teachers, administrators, staff and professional advisors, be formed to further discuss the options before the board. While many welcomed the concept, some voiced concern that it would be too little too late if the board’s vote was looming. Bartle told the public that a vote could come as early as 90 days from the end of the public hearing, or by May 25, 2015. A chance could take place no sooner than 60 days from then, leaving any changes to become official no sooner than July 25, 2015.
Many parents urged the district to slow down on the decision, and not to try to cram it into the time prior to next school year.
The meeting Tuesday will sit between two public hearings. Monday’s, which featured around 50 speakers, concluded with the promise that groups “five through nine” would get to speak on Wednesday. The second of the two hearings is to be held Wednesday evening at 6:30 p.m. again at the Arcola Intermediate School auditorium. The public is invited to attend, and all residents, tax payers, students, parents, teachers, or persons with interests in the matters are permitted to speak.