Southeastern PA

Quakertown receives Tohickon Valley recommendation

School could close at the end of 2017-18 year

QUAKERTOWN, Pa. - The future of the Quakertown Area School District could well have come into focus Thursday night.

If the district closes Tohickon Valley Elementary School, a committee recommended to the school board that students be sent to Quakertown, Neidig, Pfaff and Trumbauersville elementary schools.

Saying it will be crowded but not impossible, the 10-member committee said the option - one of four - has many advantages for the district. It would be the least disruptive option overall, incur no temporary costs and provide the clearest path to creating the means to accomplish the district's facilities plan.

In addition, more money would be available to address capital maintenance and renovations at Neidig sooner and no modular classrooms would be needed.

The plan, however, is not without shortcomings.

One would be overcrowding for two to three years in the remaining elementary schools without any room for growth and class sizes for elementary grades would increase on average from just over 21 students to just over 23 students. The committee noted that some grades would actually see a decrease, such as the fourth grade, which would see a drop from 24.6 students in 2017-2018 compared to 22.9 students in 2018-2019.

Another issue noted by the committee - termed the elementary reassignment committee - would be that bus routes for some students would be longer. For example, students living in the Hickory Drive neighborhood and the northern part of Old Bethlehem Pike would experience an increase in bus ride times.

The committee assured parents that no student would ride a bus longer than 45 minutes and that current Tohickon Valley students going to Quakertown, Trumbauersville and Neidig would have little to no change in bus ride times.

There was one deal breaker. The committee recommended the option - called A2 - on the assumption that the renovation and expansion of Neidig Elementary as described in the district's 2015-2016 facilities study commences immediately.

Without that promise, the option won't be worth the hassle and another option would be selected. Neidig was built in 1958 and portions of the school were renovated 29 years later in 1987.

A total of four financial scenarios were presented along with option A2 in which millage rates would increase either 2.8 or 4.2 percent, depending on whether the district applies to the state for exceptions. The hike would cost the average property owner between $116 to $142 annually.

The school board will vote on the issue Dec. 7. If passed, it would result in the closing of Tohickon Valley at the end of the 2017-2018 school year.

In other news, Thursday night proved to be the final meeting for four directors. Stephen Ripper, Charles Shermer, Bob Smith and President Paul Stepanoff all called it a career.

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