Parents express concerns about class sizes at Hillendale Elementary
● By J. Chambless
The UCF School Board (from left), superintendent John Sanville, and board members Michael Rock, Steve Simonson, Victor Dupuis, Robert Sage, Gregg Lindner, Keith Knauss, Kathleen Do, Jeff Hellrung and Carolyn Daniels.
By John Chambless
Parents concerned about large class sizes at Hillendale Elementary School addressed the Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board at Monday night's work session.
A small group of parents attended the meeting, which was filled beyond capacity by students from Unionville High School's AP government classes, who are required to attend a meeting as part of their class work.
Two women who are parents of students in the district pointed out that last year, the second grade classes at Hillendale were enrolled at the maximum of 24 students. This year, those classes are at the third-grade maximum of 26 students per class. “We're here because we believe that's too much,” one parent told the board. “We feel that our kids are at a disadvantage heading into their first experience with the PSSA tests. We recognize the logistical and financial challenges of adding another full-time teacher. But we are asking you to consider adding third language arts teacher, and to re-examine class size guidelines going forward. There seems to be agreement from staff, administration and parents that this new language arts curriculum is much more challenging than the previous one. Our students would benefit from smaller group instruction.”
District superintendent John Sanville said, “We've got your research. We'll have a conversation with the board, [director of curriculum] John Nolen and [Hillendale principal] Steve Dissinger. I'll use Steve as conduit to get back to you. I'm hearing that there's one instant issue, which is the language arts section. The longer-term view is to consider the guidelines we have in place.”
Board president Victor Dupuis added, “There's no question that having fewer students is better. The question is, can we afford it, and can we do it without redistricting? Those are the big questions we have. We've heard you loud and clear, though, and we're going to take some time to create a good response.”
In a discussion of the district's long-range development plans, Rick Hostetler, the supervisor of buildings and grounds, outlined the specific spending projections, saying, “In the 10-year plan, Patton Middle School and Hillendale Elementary are the focus because they've gone the longest without major renovations.”
In 2015, the district spent $3.1 million on large-scale renovations, Hostetler said, which was in line with projections. “The bottom line, as far as proposed expenditures for 2016, is that we're looking at $3,150,500,” he said.
Bob Cochran, director of business and operations, said, “We've been putting money aside to fund the five-year plan. Right now, we're sitting with $3.3 million available to us for year three of the 10-year plan and beyond. We will be into spring of the 2017 school year when we're going to have a conversation about additional funding through a bond issue to keep the 10-year plan going.”
Addressing the current major renovations at the middle school, Hostetler said, “I'm not going to beat around the bush, it's a very frustrating project. But it's coming along. We're probably a little bit behind schedule, perhaps about a week. If you go over there, things are happening, but it is requiring a lot of effort. I'm still anticipating completion in December.”
When it comes to outside groups renting the athletic facilities at Unionville High School, Hostetler said the demand is sometimes overwhelming. “We continue to get inundated with requests,” he said. “Most are for our athletic fields and gyms. We do get a number of requests from community groups, particularly the URA (Unionville Recreation Association). URA gets priority over non-community groups. They, and Southern Chester County Soccer, have used our facilities for years, and they have a standing request.”
Sanville added that, “There are concerns that some of the other groups are not really community groups. If somebody want to lie that their membership is 75 percent members of our community, they can do that. We're not police. We've been trusting of our community. but the question was raised that perhaps not everyone is being as forthright as other groups. So we're going to require names and addresses of those groups that are using our facilities, with an opportunity to opt in so we can communicate with them directly to confirm their status, the category of the group, and whether we should charge or not charge, and how much we should charge. To be fair, we're going to do that for all groups.”
Addressing the resignation of board member Keith Knauss last week, Sanville said, “The board will act next week to accept Keith's resignation from the board. We'll have an opportunity to thank him for his service to the board at next week's meeting. From a public perspective, on Oct. 27, we'll advertise the position on our website, and send it out to the community. We will accept applications through the sixth of November. There will be interviews on the ninth, and then the board will vote on a new member on Nov. 16.”
The board will meet on Oct. 26 at 7 p.m. at the Unionville Elementary School auditorium. Visit www.ucfsd.org for details and all board documents.
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