The date has changed, but the arguments remained pretty much the same on September 12 when Delaware Valley School District officials considered their options for the students at Delaware Valley Elementary School (DVES).
The problems have been stated and the arguments repeated regularly over the past seven years, since the school board agreed to buy land and build a new school.
Building costs, local permitting issues and popular concerns about the wisdom of building on property adjoining a natural gas transmission pipeline versus the need to get students out of a 57-year-old building with a leaking roof and retaining the educational quality that created the district’s national reputation have created seemingly intractable positions on both sides.
A board work session touched all these elements again, adding to options for a situation in which DVES could not be used. As board member John Wroblewski said, “I’m concerned about a catastrophic failure.”
Superintendent John Bell said one option for DVES includes sending its 488 students to join 483 Shohola Elementary School students and DVES special education students at the Dingman-Delaware campus. The change, in part, would cost $125,000 annually in transportation costs and require redesign of Shohola classrooms, shared offices, and gymnasium spaces, creation of additional parking, sewage handling and the elimination of the Shohola pre-K program.
The second option would require a complete re-drawing of the elementary school district, with DVES students going to both Shohola and Dingman-Delaware. Bell said none of the options are long term and “all are crappy for a good school district.”
The DV district’s student population has fluctuated from about 4,800 in 2000 to about 5,700 in 2006-07, and appears to be close to 4,800 again this fall. But Bell said the district’s programs have advanced to a point where “we can’t do six schools with the academics we have now.”
For the time being, students are at DVES and no authority has warned of a catastrophic failure of the building. “If there are health or safety issues, certainly the board will act, but there is no danger of the roof falling,” said board president Bill Greenlaw.
Support services director Marvin Eversdyke said roof repairs can continue. “We’ve been repairing it for the eight years I’ve been with the district,” he said.
Other than DVES, the board heard about the Affordable Care Act’s possible impacts on part-time employees. Business Manager Bill Hessling warned that should part-timers exceed 30 hours per-week, DV would be required to offer them access to the district’s health care plan.