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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Why are conversations about South Elementary happening at all?
A. Late in summer, air quality tests results indicated the presence of mold spores at South Elementary in several classrooms in the downstairs (5th grade) hallway. In response, cleaning, sanitizing, and ventilating the classroom areas occurred. Several groups of students were relocated to different spaces in the building. The excessive rain during the summer months increased the moisture content in the building and helped to cultivate mold spores. The most recent air quality test results indicate significant decreases in mold spores and levels well within normal ranges. However, as our Operations team investigated sources of moisture in the building and how they might offset it, the need for new windows, doors, and flooring (due to old carpet) was reinforced.

Q. Are there other needs at South besides those related to protecting the air quality?

A. Yes. The building is the district’s oldest, and even though there was a renovation completed in 1995, many areas of the school are still original. Other improvements that are needed include replacing exterior panels and possibly the structural materials beneath those panels, replacing the playground equipment and playing surface, improving drainage of the grass fields, and regrading door thresholds.

Q. What information can be shared about the asbestos floor tiles that are at South?

A. The floor tiles that contain asbestos were installed when the building was built in the mid-1950s. Asbestos was commonly used in building materials up until the 1980s when it was banned for associated health risks. If it remains undisturbed without the possibility of the fibers being released into the air and inhaled, asbestos does not pose a health risk. The district must follow federal regulations with regard to asbestos management, and each year it conducts inspections of all the district buildings for asbestos-containing materials and updates plans or takes action as needed.

Q. What types of upgrades have been made at South in recent years?

A. Nearly $6 million has been spent on upgrades and improvements to South Elementary School over the last six years. In 2013-14, South’s lobby was renovated to improve safety, modular classrooms were upgraded, and the HVAC system was also replaced. In the 2017-18 school year, South’s roof was replaced, flooring was repaired and the parking lot and bus loop were repaved. Prior to that, South underwent a renovation project in 1995 that included upgrades to the library, a new gym, and 11 new classrooms.

Q. What options are being considered to address the current needs of the South facility?

A. Options for South Elementary were presented at a community meeting on Monday evening, October 22. These options currently include completing major upgrades to the building, constructing a new school, or closing South and shifting students in different ways to maximize building capacities in the other district schools. Examples include shifting all fifth-graders into the middle schools, resulting in two grades 5-8 schools at Middle School East (MSE) and Middle School West (MSW) or creating a fifth- and sixth-grade building at MSW and a seventh- and eighth-grade building at MSE.

Q. How are building capacities determined?

A. Capacity numbers take into account a variety of factors, including student enrollment, class size, the curriculum, and special education regulations. While physical space certainly plays a role in determining a building’s capacity, the district’s delivery of educational programs also affects capacity. For example, at PV, we designate classrooms for special areas such as art and music, whereas other school districts might offer these subjects “on a cart,” thereby increasing a building’s capacity (yielding more space). As building capacity values are reviewed, careful consideration must be given to special education classrooms, which may warrant class sizes much lower than regular education classes due to student needs and state mandates.

Q. Would class sizes increase if South is closed?

A. Most likely. However, the administrative team will continue in its efforts to ensure that class sizes remain within the recommended guidelines provided under Policy 126. 

Q. What happens to the autistic support program if South is closed?

A. We would have to carefully study this issue to determine the best course of action. Certainly we realize that students with autism might be particularly challenged by a change in routine, and we would want to do everything possible to ensure a smooth transition. More research would need to be done.

Q. Why did PV redistrict a small group of students from South to Evergreen for the 2018-19 school year if enrollment overall is declining?
A. Student enrollment as a whole may be declining, but South experienced an increase in student enrollment that put a strain on building resources. The most efficient way to address this unusual bubble was to shift attendance boundaries slightly so that a small number of students already living quite close to Evergreen could attend that school and relieve South. In addition, Evergreen had open classrooms to accommodate these new students. Enrollment projections do not indicate that South’s population will continue increasing in future years. If a redistricting option were chosen, the students who were redistricted to Evergreen this year would not be shifted a second time. 

Q. I've heard that the enrollment figures used by the district are outdated/inaccurate. What data are being used?
A. The district has been using enrollment projections provided by the Montgomery County Planning Commission. The Commission was approved to conduct a study in the 2016-17 school year and the results were presented to the Board of School Directors in May 2017. In addition to these projections, the district uses enrollment information provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Education. As we compare projections for the current year to actual enrollment figures, we are recognizing that enrollment is not declining as fast as anticipated, and this has prompted us to look closer at the data. 
Conversations are ongoing with the Montgomery County Planning Commission to validate the data and projections. 

Q. Will the district share information that private individuals provided regarding their analyses of enrollment data? 
A. At this time, there is no plan to share this information. The district prefers to rely on and share information that has been or will be supplied by professional organizations that specialize in analyzing population data and trends. 

Q. If any of the redistricting options are chosen, South will be closed. What happens to faculty/staff in this scenario?
A. We would reassign South faculty/staff to other roles in the district. There is no intent to reduce staff because the overall number of students won’t dramatically change as a result of redistricting. Efficiencies could be realized in future years through attrition, which refers to absorbing positions through retirements as opposed to replacing the retirees.

Q. What happens to the South property if the School Board decides to close the building?
A. The School Board would have to explore various options, including using the building for some other purpose or selling the building and the land to someone else.

Q. If a redistricting option is chosen, which school populations will be affected?
A. It would depend upon which redistricting option is chosen. In all options, South students would be split between Skippack and Evergreen (the two closest elementary schools) and then some students from Evergreen would be shifted to Schwenksville to accommodate the new students from South. If option C is selected to create two 5-8 buildings, all fifth-graders would move to a different building. Similarly, if option D is selected to create 5-6 and 7-8 centers, all fifth-graders would shift, and portions of East and West students in grades 6-8 would be shifted as well.

Q. If the option to create a fifth- and sixth-grade building at MSW and a seventh- and eighth-grade building at MSE is selected, how will that impact busing?
A. The option as currently presented would establish a 5-6 center at Middle School West and the 7-8 center at Middle School East. For fifth- and sixth-grade students who live in the Collegeville/Trappe area, the ride to West could be long. This is certainly a concern that we have been investigating with our transportation provider, STA. They have proposed the possibility of staggering the start times for the different buildings, thereby allowing for more direct routes and less stops. Another option is adding more buses. However, this could result in a significant cost to the district. There is a lot of research that still needs to be done to help us determine the pros and cons of this option.

Q. What is the timeline for a decision regarding South?

A. Interest has been expressed in having administration and the Ad Hoc Facilities Committee make a recommendation to the School Board by the beginning of the new calendar year. Whether or not the recommended option could be implemented by the 2019-20 school year is yet to be determined. Options involving a building project (renovation to South or addition to Schwenksville, for example) would probably take at least two years to implement, if approved.