Souderton Area School District introduced the idea of closing one of their seven elementary schools during Wednesday night's meeting.
The district stated that they have noticed a significant drop in Kindergarten registration, elementary enrollment and possessed unused classrooms within their buildings, leading to an elementary facilities study to be conducted.
Souderton contacted the Pennsylvania Economy League (PEL) to conduct an in-depth study of their elementary schools last October. The results of the study were presented, as well as building capacity and a review of the PEL demographics study to Souderton's school board during the Operations Committee meeting. Each elementary school was reviewed in terms of condition of buildings, mechanical and unused and underutilized spaces.
The schools were reviewed on the building accessibility, roofing, exterior masonry, plumbing, HVAC, electrical, generators, concrete, asphalt, security and pole lighting, playground equipment, communication systems and community usage.
Three of the elementary schools had priority items of high concern. E. Merton Crouthamel (EMC) Elementary showed minor leaking and needs full replacement of the roof, outside there are cracks, and sunken curbs and sidewalks. Lower Salford Elementary has no entrance ramp, ramps or wheelchair lifts, has narrow hallways, doorways, and low ceilings, and the asphalt needs complete sealing and painting. Additionally they have an inadequate generator and pervasive hot water and piping issues. West Broad Street Elementary's roof also showed minor leaking and needs a full replacement.
Lower Salford Elementary was singled out by the study to cost an additional $3.5 million to make the school fulling accessible with ADA codes. Lower Salford was also one of the schools that was shown to not be heavily used by the community.
There are 18 underutilized classrooms and 9 unused classrooms, throughout all the elementary schools. Closing an elementary school would condense the space for the children.
"There's plenty of room, even with six buildings," said Assistant Superintendent Frank Gallagher, who presented the building capacity information.
The final aspect to the study was the demographics report, which showed a projected decrease in population within the area and a decrease to the number of children coming to Souderton.
A timeline was presented which stated a recommendation from administration as to which building to close will be stated at the next board meeting on September 19. A public hearing is expected to be conducted on November 29, with the final board action on closing a school on February 28, 2013.
Parents of students within the district were not very keen on the idea that closing an elementary school may become a reality.
"My obligation is to my children. Your obligation is to my children," said Andrea Farina, a parent and elementary principal herself, "I think you need to focus on what matters most… My concern is that you close a school, your going to increase class size, your going to have to cut really valuable people. I would really hate to see that happen."
The next school board meeting will be held on September 19, where the recommendation for which school to close will be presented.