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U-CF board hears about renovations, new classes and classroom stress

11/12/2014 10:34AM ● Published by J. Chambless

By John Chambless

Staff Writer

At the Nov. 10 meeting of the Unionville-Chadds Ford school board, the district's 10-year plan for renovations was updated by Rick Hostetler, the supervisor of buildings and grounds.

In the first year of the plan, $1.2 million has been spent, chiefly for repairs and renovations to Hillendale Elementary School and Patton Middle School. "Except for some electrical work, we completed everything on the list in year one," Hostetler told the board. The next phase will include new carpet and windows at Hillendale, and more upgrades at Patton Middle School. No cost estimate is available yet for the second phase of the work, most of which will be done next summer while schools are empty.

Hostetler also said that Longwood Gardens has asked to use the parking lot at the middle school and high school for overflow parking during the holiday season. If the weather is snowy or wet, Longwood can't use their unpaved overflow parking on Route 1, and so turns to the Exelon parking lot as an overflow location. If that lot is full or otherwise unavailable, the school parking lot would be used for visitors, and shuttle buses would be run to Longwood. "They have a very detailed plan in place," Hostetler said.

Kathleen Do outlined new courses being suggested for Unionville High School, including Apps for Digital Devices, Robotics, Introduction to Engineering Design, and 3D Sculpture and Design III.

The board also heard about the extended school year, which will be based at Unionville Elementary School from June 29 to Aug. 6 next summer. Classes will run Monday through Thursday, from 8:30 a.m. to noon, for grades K to 12.

A draft of the district's audit report was presented by Carl Hogan of BBD, LLC, the company which took over the audit this year. "For the year ended June 30, you got a clean opinion," Hogan told the board, saying that a final report will be issued in a couple of weeks.

Board member Carolyn Daniels addressed several topics at the meeting, including a proposal to make a video of the board's work sessions available online. "In terms of community involvement, it's a great thing," said school superintendent John Sanville. There is no cost associated with making the videos, and the board members agreed to go ahead with regularly taping the work sessions.

In October, the district began receiving a dashboard of statistics about the schools each month. The board discussed a rise in the number of referrals of students to school social workers. In August, there were 24 referrals, and in September, the total was 91, indicating at least 67 new referrals. Sanville said students are referred to social workers for a variety of reasons, including academic struggles, problems at home, and family issues that are affecting the student. "You do tend to get a greater number of referrals in the beginning of the year," Sanville said, as teachers first become aware of struggles students are having in class.

Daniels also addressed a meeting of the PTO Advisory Board, which was held two weeks ago. Representatives from all six district schools attended, and they heard from the public and teachers about several issues, chiefly the stress being seen among students. Daniels said families were vocal about the issue. "Perhaps we can move the conversation toward solutions," she said. "We're looking forward to continuing the conversation, and hopefully getting some answers on what we can do to make school less stressful."

Do said she is concerned about anecdotal reports she has gotten from teachers and parents that, "kids are missing school due to stress, kids are going to therapists. I'd like this to be something this board pays attention to. A lot of times, kids are just feeling overwhelmed."

Sanville said he is also concerned, but cautioned that, "stress is sometimes life-centered. We should address this as a community concern. I'm cautious about how far we should reach into the lives of our families. I don't want to tell families how to raise their children."

Do agreed, but said that she has heard from teachers that children as young as elementary age are acting up in class, perhaps reflecting stress at school or at home. "Maybe it's because of things that happen at home, but it affects our kids' education," she said. "And if it's affecting the classroom, we should address it."

More information about the school district is available at www.ucfsd.org.

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, e-mail jchambless@chestercounty.com.


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