Voicing concerns about long bus rides and a lack of a long-term solution, parents took turns discussing overpopulation problem during a sometimes-heated Town Hall meeting, Monday evening, April 30, in the auditorium.
The school's crowding is a long-standing problem, and a recent series of subcommittee meetings has led the administration .
With this proposal, the number of Skippack Elementary homerooms would be reduced by three, 36 to 33, with the faculty positions being reduced through retirements. The reconfiguration should allow special-area subjects (such as art, foreign language) to have classroom space instead of being taught from carts that travel from room to room. Class sizes would increase from the current average of 20 students to 24.5. The solution would also allow district officials more time to study population trends, according to the presentation (see the slideshow included here).
However, the recommendation does not reduce the school's population nor ease the strained resources, said Superintendent Dr. Clifford Rogers. If the measure is adopted, Rogers said the district would try to make adjustments to ease the burden on Skippack's staff and services.
Another proposal put forth, but is not the recommendation, would move 100 Skippack students to "based on a pincers plan."
In 2008, some Skippack students moved to Schwenksville Elementary, but the school then repopulated itself, said Business Administrator Jim Weaver during the presentation that kicked off the meeting. Several parents decried that option, calling it a "Band-Aid" and citing concerns about a longer bus ride for their young children.
The distance is a concern, and the burden put on one area for a long-term fix isn’t ideal, said one parent, an Olde Village resident whose family could be impacted by a Skippack-to-Schwenksville transfer. “I don’t think it’s right.”
Other parents mentioned Skippack Elementary's proximity to their homes was part of their decisions about where to move.
"As parents, it makes us feel that we’ve lost control over the decision we made to move here and be close to that school," one mother said.
A Skippack Elementary School kindergarten teacher encourage the attendees to consider what it would mean to increase the class sizes.
“It’s a big deal” to go from 20 students to 24, she said.
"I feel certain things, as a Skippack teacher and educator. We’re talking a lot about busing, and I get that, but they’re in school from 8:30 to 3:15, and we need to talk about how to educate our kids and how to give them the best education we can."
Several parents advocated hiring an outside firm to study the district and provide data that could inform any future decision.
"We need a long-term plan from an outside, unemotional source, because this is an emotional issue," one attendee said.
"If we have to go (to Schwenksville), we’ll go, but we want to know data and logic was applied," another parent said.
Redistricting all four elementary schools is another suggestion, but it will not be implemented in fall 2012.
The school board will meet at 7:30 p.m. on May 7 and 14 in the Perkiomen Valley High School library.
Editor's note: This article has been changed to correct the estimation of increased homeroom size at Skippack Elementary School.