CLEARFIELD – On Monday night, the Clearfield Area School District Board of Directors approved re-bidding upgrades to the bleachers at the Clearfield High School soccer and football stadium.
Superintendent Dr. Thomas B. Otto said in 2010, the district’s insurance carrier was concerned about the stadium’s bleachers and safety issues that might be involved. He said the district was put on notice that if it became in a “financial situation,” it needed to address the safety issues.
He said since he came to Clearfield, someone supposedly fell through the bleachers at the stadium. He said he was particularly concerned about the lack of hand railing up the steps. He said because everyone has been watching how they spend money, the district does have some amount of a capital reserve fund.
Otto said he wanted to initiate dialogue with the board with J. Greer Hayden of HHSDR Architects/Engineers of Sharon present at the meeting. If the district would pursue the bleacher upgrades, he said a community member would be willing to donate a press box to mount on the home side of the stadium.
Hayden said last April, the district sought bids for bleacher upgrades, which included renovations to both the home and away bleachers. Hayden said the district’s low bid was $429,000 for both sides and included railings in the aisles to assist people going up and down the steps. He said because aluminum bleachers are slipperier, the hand rails are necessary.
Further, Hayden said last April, the district’s alternative bid for the aluminum seat board replacement was $46,500. He said its alternative bid for the closed deck system was an additional $125,000, which would prevent people and debris from falling beneath the bleachers.
He said of those received by the district, the base bids ranged from $429,000 to $511,000 and have since gone up. He said he’d approached the previously interested bidders about holding their prices, but he didn’t get a lot of positive feedback from them.
Hayden said the district would be better off to bid the bleacher upgrades again than to try to negotiate with the previous bidders, especially if it’s going to construct an understructure for a press box.
When asked about the district’s financial situation, Business Administrator Sam Maney said the district could potentially end the year with a surplus of around $300,000. He said the capital reserve was at a little more than $2 million, and these capital improvements wouldn’t impact the general fund. Maney said he anticipates ending the current-year in the black unless there would be some major catastrophe between now and June 30.
Board member Larry Putt said if they renovated the bleachers and had the press box it would make the stadium a more likely venue for soccer and football play-offs, district track and field meets, etc., which would generate revenue.
Board President Dave Glass asked if the district had passed on anything educational-wise at the high school that the board might have otherwise considered a want and not a need. He said they had put a lot of money into athletics and didn’t want to at the expense of academics.
At the comprehensive plan meeting, board member Mary Anne Jackson said she learned the district has elementary students who are on a waiting list for remedial help. She said, “We are an educational system first, so if we have excess money, we should be allocating it for educational help for our children, before we do these wonderful things.”
Maney explained once money is put into the capital project fund, that must be its use. He said it cannot be transferred back into the general fund. Board member Tim Morgan then asked if the district had a line item within its general fund budget for the capital reserve funds to which Maney said every year he puts $250,000 into the capital reserve fund. When asked by Morgan, Maney said the district could use it for educational purposes rather than sticking it into the capital reserve fund, which is comparable to a “lock box.”
Morgan said since the capital reserve is pretty well-funded, perhaps the district should pursue something like Jackson had suggested. He asked, “So are we going to allocate money to students who need remedial help in elementary and middle school who might not do well on their Keystone Exams?”
Glass asked how many students were on the remedial help waiting list. He said this was the first time the board had heard about it.
Bruce Nicolls, director of curriculum and instruction, said because of declining federal programs funding, the district might need to consider spending local money to maintain its current level of support. He expects that it will take at least $100,000 of local effort to just keep the Title I services at their current level next year.
In addition, Nicolls said the majority of its Title I Reading services are conducted in small groups, so that it’s a more intensive program. He said they’re not always immediately able to place students into the program. In previous years, Nicolls said they just added students, but the current program is designed to be very intensive, small groups that enable the students to be worked back into the classroom.
“Our goal is to get as many as we can to the point, where they are caught up and need minimal help to keep up with the class,” he said. When asked, Nicolls confirmed there are students who are on a waiting list for remediation to which board member Jennifer Wallace asked how this could be remedied.
“Do we add more teachers?” she asked, “There shouldn’t be waiting lists at all.”
Nicolls said they could either add more teachers, or put the students in the program anyway. However, he said if they add students, it would dilute the impact of the program. Wallace said, “Then, we need to add staff.” Nicolls said it’s not always easy to predict, as it might look like good staffing levels in September but then there might be an influx in students later in the year.
Nicolls said the district currently offers Title 1 services in kindergarten through fourth grades. He said the district also has the option of changing the grade levels that it services. For example, he said the district could limit the services through the third grade to pick up teachers. On the other hand, if it would add grades five and six, Nicolls said it would need additional teachers.
When asked by Dr. Michael Spencer, Nicolls said they wouldn’t pick up any staff from that moving into CES with the closure of the Girard-Goshen, Centre and Bradford Township Elementary Schools. He said Title I staffing varies from building-to-building every year, and it’s never been the same two years straight.
Otto said when he first arrived the district had 390 staff members and now it has 367.5. He said he didn’t think the district could manage with any less and might even want to consider adding some staff for different students. Otto said they don’t have to spend on just buildings, vehicles, etc., and the district has that flexibility. He said hopefully by consolidating into two buildings, it’ll better equalize its staff to suit the needs of its students.
Glass said the district at the very least should re-bid the bleacher upgrades, because it cannot be put off much longer. Morgan said he agreed with Jackson in that the district needed to cover all of its bases, including educational.
“We’re exposed there and have been for a while,” said Glass of the bleachers.
During the public comment, resident Gail Ralston said she appreciated the comments from board members about taking care of the district’s students. She congratulated the district on its $2.1 capital reserve fund and anticipated $300,000 surplus for this year. However, she said it appeared as through the capital reserve fund was becoming a “slush fund” for athletics. She said it’s supposed to be used as a long-term safety net, while the district will eventually have two buildings progressively aging at the same time.
“You’ll want to be able to take care of that. It would be more prudent to plan ahead,” said Ralston.