● Published by J. Chambless
By John Chambless
The Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board began gearing up for the rapidly approaching school year on Aug. 10 at a work session.
Rick Hostetler, the supervisor of building and grounds, updated the board on a very busy summer that has made big changes to the district's school buildings.
"At Hillendale Elementary School, we've completed carpeting in one-third of the building," Hostetler said, "with the intention to do more next year and the year after that. All the lighting has been replaced, and all the ceiling tiles have been replaced. At Patton Middle School, the window installation has been completed. We've repaved about 80 percent of the parking lot, and replaced all the parking lot light fixtures with LED fixtures. We've recoated the gym floors throughout the district, and at Pocopson Elementary, we've refinished and repainted, like we did at Unionville Elementary last summer.
"At Pocopson and Unionville Elementary, carpeting has been replaced in five classrooms, and with PTO help, we've finished a rock-climbing wall at Unionville Elementary," Hostetler added.
At Patton Middle School, two health rooms, a trainer's room, the band and music rooms and a strings room are scheduled to be completed before the beginning of school. "They are a little behind," Hostetler admitted, "but I have every reason to believe they will be ready for the start of school."
The big news wasn't as happy. "We did have a leak at the high school, during which a couple of toilets ran for an entire weekend," Hostetler said. "As a result, water splashed out of the bowls over a long weekend, flooding the third floor, which then went down through the second and first floors. We have it pretty well cleaned up, but if I had to take a guess about the costs, I'd say we're looking at $100,000. The insurance company is assessing it right now. What happened was that we had done some plumbing work the previous week, and some steel broke loose inside the plumbing system due to the work, and it lodged in the flush valves. It was kind of a worst-case scenario."
Hostetler said insurance will cover all the costs of repairs after the district pays a $5,000 deductible.
"The other unexpected item was that the rooftop heating and air-conditioning unit at Patton Middle School failed at the beginning of the summer," Hostetler said. "As we were reasearching, we found out there was a unit sitting in Baltimore that could serve as a replacement. The unit is three years old but was purchased by the district there and never installed. It's brand new, still in the packaging. They offered to sell it to us for $10,000. It was something we had to make a quick decision on, so we went ahead to go with this replacement unit."
Hostetler said the final price tag with installation will be between $15,000 and $17,000. "If we were to repair the existing unit, we'd be looking at a cost of about $10,000, and it would still be an 18-year-old unit," he said. "With this one, we get delivery and a crane service to put it on the roof. The risk is very minimal and the gain was advantageous for us. A new unit would have cost us $65,000 to $75,000, and we're getting this one for $15,000."
The unit is expected to be installed this week.
Board member Kathleen Do spoke about a discussion held by the curriculum commitee that addressed the issue of security clearances for volunteers. "I'm happy to report that the law has been revised -- it is now called Act 115," Do said. "The bottom line for us is anybody who has been volunteering has no change this year. Any new volunteers will need a Pennsylvania criminal background check and a child-abuse clearance. The Governor has made the decision that there will be no fees for those tests.
"What is changing is that next year, is that instead of redoing security clearances every seven years, you will redo them every five years," Do said. "And the FBI fingerprinting check will be required for any volunteer who has not lived in Pennsylvania for 10 years or more. We'll keep people informed," she added, "but the big news is that for the coming school year, there's no changes.
"There was a great deal of upheaval across the state from groups like the Boy Scouts, and various other organizations, that were worred about losing volunteers," Do said. "I think things are looking much better and much more doable for us."
Board member Keith Knauss, acknowledging the ongoing teacher contract negotiations, announced, "Last year's contract has expired, and we are now operating on the terms of the previous contract. That's typically what happens when both sides can't agree on a contract."
There was a lengthy discussion of school district goals, which will result in a survey -- probably conducted online -- to, as board member Rober Sage said, "assess improving student experience, investing in our people, embracing digital opportunities and improving school climate."
Board members discussed how to measure success on some of those points, as well as how to gather the information.
"It's a little bit unsettling because you don't know what kind of feeback you're going to get," said district superintendent John Sanville. "Maybe it exposes blind spots, or things that you dind't think about before. We might hear some things we like and some things that we have to work on. But you can't address those things unless you seek them out."
To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email email@example.com.