CASD Holds 780 Hearing for Building Closures
CLEARFIELD – The Clearfield Area School District Board of Directors held its 780 public hearing Monday night for the proposed permanent closure of the Clearfield Area Middle School and the Bradford Township and Centre Elementary Schools.
By law, the district is required to conduct a 780 public hearing during which it hears public input on the proposed school closings. One hearing was held for all three school buildings. The district did not take any official action afterward and cannot until the conclusion of a three-month “cooling off” period in January of 2013.
Superintendent Dr. Thomas B. Otto opened the hearing by presenting the project background. On March 7, 2011, he said the board conducted a public hearing to review six building options, which ranged from $54.26 million to $58.53 million. All six were rejected by the board.
Otto said the board later examined Option 7 and Option 8, finding both unacceptable at $45 million. Then, he said the board considered Option 9, which totaled $34 million for the Clearfield High School renovation and expansion and $9 million for the CES expansion.
In June of 2011, he said the board approved the high school building project, which is currently under way. Afterward he said building plans were revised based upon feedback from ongoing staff meetings and board decisions.
On Jan. 23, Otto recommended consolidating the Girard-Goshen, Bradford Township and Centre Elementary Schools and the Clearfield Area Middle School into an expanded and renovated CES campus for kindergarten through grades six. On March 21, the board held its 780 public hearing for the permanent closure of Girard-Goshen.
On June 25, the board voted 5-3 to permanently close Girard-Goshen. On Aug. 20, Architect J. Greer Hayden of HHSDR Architects/Engineers of Sharon presented three options for moving forward with the middle and elementary school buildings. Both Option 1 and Option 2 would consolidate grades kindergarten through six into the CES.
Option 1 would include a two-wing expansion and a kitchen addition at the CES. Each grade level would have seven classrooms, except kindergarten, which would have 10 classrooms. The guidance area would be expanded and a security vestibule added to the school’s entrance, Hayden said.
This first option costs $10.4 million and has higher site costs because the two-wing addition would displace the playground area. The second option is similar but would have a “reduced scope” and eliminate the kitchen addition, which significantly reduces its costs. Option 2 costs $8.8 million.
Hayden also presented an Option 3, which would keep all the elementary buildings open and return fifth and sixth grades to them from the middle school. He said this option would include a smaller addition at the CES with the bare minimum renovations to Bradford Township and Centre Elementary Schools.
He proposed tearing down the original wing and adding a small addition at Bradford Township. He wasn’t proposing any addition at Centre and only a reconstruction of the entry way. He proposed restroom and kitchen improvements at both Bradford Township and Centre.
Option 3 would cost the district $.9.3 million for the proposed plans at all three elementary buildings.
At the Aug. 20 meeting, Otto also provided his financial and educational analysis of the proposed elementary building options. If the district consolidated into the CES and closed its administrative offices, it would realize a total savings of $1.4 million annually. In addition, he said it would have equal class sizes district-wide.
Otto said if the district closed the middle school and district administrative offices, it would realize a total savings of $760,652. However, he shared numerous educational program concerns with Option 3.
According to him, class sizes are increasing at Centre and by 2014-15, all 11 classrooms would be utilized. He said this would leave the school without Title 1 and Learning Support classrooms. By 2015-16, he said the school would be a classroom short because grades kindergarten through four would need two classrooms each.
Otto said that Centre’s music and art programming would remain a mobile classroom, which needs upgrades.
He said class numbers are large at Bradford Township with 28 students in first grade and 25 students each in both kindergarten and fourth grade. He said all available classrooms would be used in 2014-15; plus, if another grade is added, there wouldn’t be room.
Otto said music and art would be offered in a classroom by the boiler room, a space that might be needed for Learning Support.
Overall, he suggested Option 3 would result in class size inequality throughout the district.
In concluding his analysis, Otto said that Option 1 and Option 2 save the district approximately $1.4 million per year. He said the district’s debt service increases to approximately $2.6 million, an increase of $700,000 from its current debt service of approximately $1.9 million.
However, he said the district would have $705,615 more annually to use for its operating expenses. Not to mention, the district’s buildings would be safe and updated.
Under Option 3, Otto said it would cost nearly the same to build a smaller addition to the CES and to minimally upgrade Centre and Bradford Township. He said the district wouldn’t be providing the opportunity to have educational equality to all of its students throughout the district.
According to him, although the district would still save $760,652, it would be offset by the increase in the debt service incurred. He said the district would have an additional $60,652 more each year to use for operating expenses and further work would need directed toward Centre and Bradford Township.
He said if it accepts the proposed CES project, the district would have one junior-senior high school for grades seven through twelve with grades kindergarten through six at the CES. He said the district might be able to further reduce teaching staff if necessary, and this could result in financial savings in excess of the $1.4 million.
So far as transportation, Otto said the district currently runs four buses for Bradford Township with route times of 30, 33, 40 and 48 minutes. If the district consolidated into the CES and maintained four routes, their times would be two at 39 minutes and then 49- and 55-minute routes.
If the district added two routes, he said there would be three, 39-minute routes and two, 38-minute routes. He said he’s discussed the possibility of making the Bigler YMCA a morning and afternoon bus stop to offer a more direct route to the CES that would be approximately 20 minutes.
He said the district currently runs four routes for Centre with their times being 27, 47, 50 and 52 minutes long. If the district consolidated into the CES and maintained four routes, their times would be 37, 47, 52 and 56 minutes. If they added two routes, he said there would be two, 35-minute routes, two 37-minute routes, a 39-minute route and a 40-minute route.
It would cost approximately $35,000 more per year for four additional buses, Otto said.
He said the district anticipated future rate increases with the State Public Employee Retirement Systems (PSERS). In 2011-12, he said its PSERS rate increased to 8.65 percent and then to 12.36 percent in 2012-13. He said its rate is expected to be 16.75 percent in 2013-14 and up to 25.56 percent in 2015-16.
Otto said the district had 376.5 and 362.5 staff members in 2011-12 and 2012-13, respectively.
He said the district’s goals are to create educationally equal programming for all students. In these difficult economic times, he said many schools are cutting programs, such as the arts and music. Otto said these programs are extremely important and the district looks to keep these intact.
“I speak from the heart. I look to keep the arts and music. I believe in athletics and academics as well,” he said.
The district must also conduct an Act 34 public hearing, which will be held at 6 p.m. Oct. 29 at the CES gymnasium. The district must conduct the Act 34 public hearing, because the proposed CES expansion is greater than 20 percent. Act 34 requires that a public hearing be held on all new construction as well as for any substantial additions.