What's happening in and around Phoenixville, PA.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

School Board Discusses Plans for the Middle School

This weekend's Phoenix talked about plans the school board is considering with regards to the Phoenixville Area Middle School. The article highlights three alternatives that are up for consideration. They are:

  1. Continue to patch problems as they arise. Cost for this is approximately $250,000-$300,000 a year and will only buy the district a couple of years and doesn't address some of the glaring needs of the district with regards to expanding the middle school.
  2. Renovate and add new spaces to the exisiting structure. Cost for this would be approximately $23 million with estimated ongoing expenses for things like maintenance and upkeep priced at $310k per year. This would extend the life of the middle school considerably but not to the extent that a new building would.
  3. Build a completely new building. Cost would be approximately $50 million. Conveniently, no mention was made with regards to yearly upkeep expenses. Lets assume, for the sake of argument, that this # is something less than the $310k quoted for the annual cost if they renovated.

According to the article, the renovation plan has been taken off the table. The board commented that:
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“Schools are finding that doing it piecemeal with a lot of labor is too costly,” Gilbert said. “At the end, you have a patchwork quilt. And a patchwork quilt will always look like a patchwork quilt.”
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While I am not going to argue that building onto an existing structure often leads to a bit of a patchwork look, I don't buy the cost arguments, at least based on the #'s presented. By going the route of the renovation, we (as a district) would be saving $27M up front. Even if there were no ongoing costs for a new facility (which won't be the case), it would take 87 years at $310k/year for the renovation to become a losing alternative.

Of course, a renovated Middle School won't last as long as a new building, but with the current economic situation our district finds itself in, I think it would be prudent to give that option some serious consideration.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

I graduated in 1990 and the Junior High....I mean Middle School... needed major work then. This community truly needs an upgrade in its schools and it has to begin now. If this is not done, then no one will wnt to raise their children in the community. Take a lesson from the patchwork job done on the High School and build something new

Anonymous said...

To Anon 1/13, 8:47:

That argument has been used by the current Board to continue to build, build, build which has done nothing but raise, raise, raise our taxes.

Look at the private schools Phoenixville parents are sending their kids to: Malvern Prep, Kimberton Waldorf, Hill School, etc. Those parents are never going to send their kids to a public school, so we shouldn't waste taxpayer money to "woo" them.

Supposedly, the economic stimulus package is going to have some serious money in it for renovating schools, especially for energy efficiency. Besides the tax savings and saving Meadowbrook Golf Course, if we renovate, we'll be able to access those dollars also and have a school that saves on fuel costs in the future.

A good architect can make a renovation look good. Let's spend the money on good design and keep what we have, rather than adding to the local tax burden to fund grandiose building schemes.

Anonymous said...

It would also help if the problems that arose in the school buildings were fixed in a timely manner. When I went to school there, there would be problems that would last for days. I'm sure these problems over time lead/led to more problems. If they would actually fix things when they happen, I'm sure the cost wouldn't be 300,000 a year. Unless they operate on one of those government type budgets where a hammer costs $500

Anonymous said...

Parents send their kids to those private schools because our schools are lacking (to say the least). Don't let those that attend public schools suffer because some small percentage decide to send their kids to private schools. I am not asking for grandiose building schemes, just something that looks and functions like it wasn't built 50 yrs ago.

Anonymous said...

I think we should look at the success of the new Schuylkill School. It is a fantastic facility and i know that parents who see a great local, public shcool will take advantage of the option. One of the reasons many people use private shcools in the area is because of the state of the current middle and high schools. We need to invest in the future of our town, not be short sighted and place bandaids on the holes.
Invest in a new middle school and the whole community will benefit.

Anonymous said...

What I find sad is how one school board member sent at least one of her children to a private school, rather than to Phoenixville, a school district which she is supposed to support and help run.

Anonymous said...

I think the new Schuylkill building looks fantastic, but the plan for the building, and supposedly the funding, wasn't thought through well enough. The building took much longer to complete b/c the cost of building it rose and they didn't have the funds available right away to finish. The population of the school is also already outgroing the building. I believe that with the population expanding in the PASD, they will need to build a lot more space than is necessary at the moment. If they are going to spend all this money on a new building look to your future needs (10-20+ years) down the road and don't build for the here and now.