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U-CF School Board approves bond refinancing that will save more than $8 million

09/13/2016 10:09AM ● Published by J. Chambless

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

At their work session on Sept. 12, the Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board got some great financial news, but also had to approve a big expense.

Thanks to changes in interest rates, the district has an opportunity to refinance about $60.6 million in bonds that the district had been paying about 5 percent interest on. The board heard on Monday night that locking in lower rates this week will result in a net savings to the district, over the life of the bonds, of $8.1 million. The estimated closing date on the deal is Oct. 25. The board unanimously approved the bond sale and issuance resolution.

On the other hand, the aging and malfunctioning fuel pump that is used to pump gasoline for the district's buses and service vehicles has required a replacement unit. After getting bids from three companies, the district selected Warren DeLong, Inc., for the work. The price will be $149,500.

Rick Hostetler, the supervisor of buildings and grounds, told the board, “There were only three bids, but that's not really uncommon with a job with specialties like a fuel pump replacement. Warren DeLong has done work for us in the past, they've done a lot of this type of work in the county, and I have no concerns about them as a bidder.”

The board unanimously approved the contract.

Hostetler said the renovation work to the auditorium at Patton Middle School “is going very well. We are doing the finishes now. We don't anticipate any lingering problems. We anticipate about two weeks until completion. It looks tremendously different. You would not recognize it as the same auditorium.”

The issue of overbooking of the district's gymnasiums was also addressed by Hostetler. “Every year we have a tremendous overload of use of our gym facilities, particularly in the winter months, by URA [Unionville Recreation Association]. It became a bit of a problem this year because we were having trouble housing a few of our school groups as well -- the high school indoor band front and indoor color guard. We had a meeting and agreed to allow URA to use the middle school gym for the same 11 Sundays that they used the high school gym, and for the same hours or five hours each day. We are going to strive to cover both of those facilities with one custodian on those days.

“It appears now that we have gym space for everyone,” he continued. “There are other groups that request use of our gym facilities, and there are going to be some groups that we'll have to turn down. It's unfortunate, but we have six gyms, and we are really bursting at the seams in the winter months.”

The board had a lengthy discussion of its ongoing study of sleep needs for students, particularly at the high school. While the district has heard from students and experts about the necessity for longer sleep hours for adolescents, the formal study of the issue is in its formative stages.

Dave Listman, the director of technology and communications, said, “Over the next couple of weeks, we'll add a resource onto our website to deal with this issue and ask for questions people have. We will take those questions and give them to the presenters at upcoming meetings, and have them address those issues.

“We also have a subcommittee that is looking at where this delayed start time has been done before, where it has not been done before,” he added. “Making schedule changes has unintended consequences, not all of which are good. We want to get all the issues out on the table within the next month.”

Ken Batchelor, the assistant to the superintendent, is heading a committee that is looking at the issue. “I want the steering committee to look at what is out there regarding some of the districts that didn't go with this. What is the different perspective that could be out there? We want to make sure that we're representing that fairly. … No decisions have been made. We're just preparing for how we want to tackle this issue.”

District superintendent John Sanville summed up, saying, “Mr. Batchelor is chairing a committee. The board has approved a goal to investigate this and have administration make a recommendation to the board for action. It's really important to let the community know about the plan to investigate this, what are the steps, and engage all opinions. I'm glad we're going to do that in the next couple of weeks. We've been talking about this amongst ourselves, and from a public perspective it doesn't look like we've done anything. We need to make sure that everyone is engaged.”

The board will meet again on Sept. 19. For more information and updates, visit www.ucfsd.org.

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email jchambless@chestercounty.com.

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