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Busing, Class Sizes, Maps: Discussion Abounds Concerning Skippack Crowding

Parents had the chance to weigh in on recommendation going before the Perkiomen Valley School Board

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.

Kerry Staiber May 02, 2012 at 01:40 AM
The specials should remain "on a cart"...it's not optimal, but we have functioned this way just fine, off and on over the past several years. This keeps the class size the way it is and gives the school district time to hire a firm to make boundary suggestions for a total redistricting to occur for the 2013-14 school year. We live too close to Skippack Elementary to even be consider being moved to Schwenksville. It's ridiculous that we have had to fight so hard for the obvious.
Vicki Corbeil May 02, 2012 at 02:32 AM
Look at the map of PVSD. Old Village of Skippack is on the Western edge of the district. The closest school is Skippack Elementary. All of the three other schools are East. Twice students have been moved from Skippack to Schwenkville and both times enrollment has gone back up. The entire district population needs to be analyzed and all four elementary school lines need to be redrawn with the goal of equalizing enrollment and keeping communities assigned to the schools they are closest to. It is too great a burden to put on Skippack residents to resolve a district wide problem. More families may be affected if all the lines are redrawn, but the burden would be less for everyone because everyone would be going to the school closest to them. There are working parents who will not be able to get to Schwenkville by 6 pm to pick up their child from the after school care program. What are they supposed to do?
Ted Crawford May 02, 2012 at 03:20 AM
Congratulations to the parents of 100 kids for making sure the rest of the students at Skippack remain in an imperfect learning environment. It's about everyone's kids, not just yours. What needs to be addressed is the fact that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has more than 500 school districts. That means there are more than 500 Superintendents drawing large salaries at the taxpayers expense. Just by going to County School Districts you cut that down to 67 Districts & Superintendents. Heck, even if you split some of the more populous counties into 2 or 3 Districts, the number statewide could probably be around 100. I'm sure it will never happen because it makes too much sense. Here's some numbers for you - decreasing Superintendents statewide from 500 to 75 at an average salary of $150,000/year saves taxpayers nearly $64M. Think about it...
B . T. McGee May 02, 2012 at 10:53 PM
Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't there a firm hired years ago that said that the western part of the district was going to be developed and that's why the decision was made to build West Middle school in the middle of nowhere? Yes, that was money well-spent... Hey, let's throw more money at the issue to ensure the firm is well paid, and 100 kids are kept from having to endure an extra 10 minutes on the bus. Makes a lot of sense... And to those that are concerned about after school care timing, I'm not sure why that is a problem that my child should have be concerned with... Having more kids in class and less one on one attention is... We all have to deal with child care issues. You do what you need to do.
Chrissie May 13, 2012 at 02:01 AM
Ted - good point about County School Districts. (But yes, I agree it will never happen.) However, try and remember that the parents of the 100 kids fought because the idea of moving their children from one side of the district to the other is preposterous...what would you expect them to do? How easily you throw 100 families in your community under the bus when it is so obviously a ridiculous option. How about we all stand together to make our district and superintendent accountable for making good and sustainable decisions. Seems like a much better use of our time.
Chrissie May 13, 2012 at 02:11 AM
BT - if you truly think it makes sense for kids to go to the Elementary school located furthest from them - than congratulations, you're about the only one who does. Even others in the district who fear they may be vulnerable know this is a ridiculous option. Why should ANY children in this district have to attend the school located furthest from them? WHY? It makes absolutely no logical sense at all. Sure we all have child care concerns... but WE ALL aren't being asked to travel to the school that is furthest from us, are we? Nope, just the 100 kids and their families who are supposed to "suck it up"??? Try and get some perspective other than your own. Take a look at the map...the district needs to do what IT needs to do.
Kerry Staiber May 15, 2012 at 08:55 PM
Wow. Ted and BT, did you read the last sentence of the article? It was only asking for which of the two recommendations you would prefer to happen at Skippack Elem. for the 2012-2013 school year. Do you want the 3 specials to remain "on a cart" and have class sizes "stay the same as they have been for the past two years" or do you want the specials to return to a class room and thus increase class size? Some classes have 22 and 23 students in them NOW. ONLY Kindergarten has the small number of 20 students, so, class doesn't change much at all. Were you unhappy with the level of education or one-on-one attention your child received this year? or last year? because it's the SAME. I am completely amazed at how selfish Ted and BT were with their comments. Should society or a school district take a "it doesn't affect me/my kid, so why should I care" attitude??? THAT'S EXACTLY what is wrong with our society today! That attitude is selfish and leads to the miserable, self serving attitude that seems to poison how we treat each other in everyday life. Do you even know that it was SKIPPACK Elem. parents that urged and fought for the well past-due and very necessary repairs to happen at South Elem.? The fact that South is literally falling apart doesn't affect MY child(ren) at Skippack Elem. so why should I care? I'll tell you why: because this is "PV" School DISTRICT....NOT Skippack school district or South school district. We are ONE. What affects one, affects the other.
Kerry Staiber May 15, 2012 at 09:09 PM
Four years ago, after the first band-aid move of students from Skippack to Schwenksville, the school district asked that parents join a commitee to address the pressing issues of the school district, mainly the dangerous conditions at South and the possibility for future over crowding at Skippack in the next few years. Did you take the time to get involved? I'm guessing not. However, now you think you have the right to judge or take the "I'm not part of the 100 families affected, so why should I care" attitude? There are so many factors that contribute to why the Skippack parents are fighting this fight. It's not as simple as it may appear. So, take the time to read all the facts on the PVSD website, or better yet, actually attend some meetings and learn about it! If you do, you'll realize it's ABSURD for ANY student to attend the FURTHEST (of four elementary schools within the district) school from their home! NO child should have to do that and NO child should have to attend a school that's falling apart....that's why Skippack parents have fought for both of these rights, even though one of these issues "doesn't even affect our children". Grow up, get involved in a positive manner or keep your mouth shut. Period.

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