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Chester County Press

U-CF School Board looks at 10-year plan

10/18/2016 10:52AM ● By J. Chambless

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

The work session for the Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board stretched out over two and a half hours on Oct. 17, touching on issues both immediate and long-term.

Rick Hostetler, supervisor of buildings and grounds, detailed some unexpected cost increases related to the replacement of the district's fuel pump at the bus garage. During excavation to replace the aging and malfunctioning pump, workers discovered rusted underground piping that had to be replaced, requiring a $3,375 change order, Hostetler said. No further cost increases are expected in the project, which totals $145,000.

Looking at the school district's 10-year plan, Hostetler laid out some long-range figures for the board that incorporated the district's five-year capital reserve plan. The total expenditures for the entire plan, which extends through 2023, is $24,951,000, Hostetler said, adding that financial goals beyond two years in the future are increasingly speculative.

The expenditures for 2017 are proposed to be a little more than $3 million, Hostetler told the board, chiefly due to the cost of installing a new HVAC system at Patton Middle School. That project is expected to cost about $2.5 million. If approved, work would start next summer, he said.

Board member Steve Simonson asked if the Patton project could be delayed, and Hostetler replied, “If you've had the opportunity to be on the second floor of the middle school when it's hot and humid, it's raining inside the building. The units really are in dire need of replacement. They have a 20-year lifespan, and they're really dying rapidly.” The system was installed in 1997, Hostetler said.

The goal of supplying all students with Chromebook notebook devices continues to be studied and cautiously expanded, said board member Carolyn Daniels. Board president Vic Dupuis noted the rapid pace of technological change, and asked if keeping any technology more than two years is feasible.

Ken Batchelor, assistant to the superintendent, has been overseeing the Chromebook initiative. He said that under the plan, “Current sixth to eighth graders have a Chromebook. The Chromebooks we purchased this year are different from the ones we purchased two years ago. The technology has changed. Each year, we will evaluate the device. When eighth graders bring Chromebook with them to ninth grade next year, we will evaluate that. We know some districts went with the iPad, and now some of them have moved to Chromebooks. Each year or two, we'll have to evaluate which device is going to support the instructional program. We need to be responsive to changes in technology.”

District superintendent John Sanville told the board that, “The administration recommendation right now is that the next step in this pilot program is that we'll have sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth graders with a Chromebook next year.”

The issue of delaying school start times continues to be examined by the board and the administration, Daniels said. “We are forming a committee of stakeholders now,” she said. “We will hold a presentation on the science behind a later school start time on Nov. 7 at Patton Middle School.”

The goal is to complete the gathering of data and public input, and come up with a recommendation to the administration by late winter, Daniels said.

Dave Listman, district communications coordinator, detailed efforts to reach out and solicit public input on the start time issue, and said that 320 individual responses had been received by the district. “Some of the responses said that if you shift the one hour forward, all you're doing is shifting everything later,” he said. “So students are going to have to stay up later, and you're not going to get a benefit in their sleep pattern. What people are saying is that the day is full, so shifting it later is not going to buy you an extra hour of sleep. After that, there were parents who said, 'You're going to flip schedules, and if you're going to have the elementary school go first, I'm going to have child care issues, and safety issues because it's dark and cold in the winter.' The rest of the responses were largely about the disruption to after-school activities and working schedules. Those people couldn't see how the benefits could overcome all those obstacles. So those same questions are going to go to the committee so they can review what the public said.”

The board will meet on Oct. 24 in the newly renovated auditorium at Patton Middle School. The public is invited to attend and offer comment. For updated information and a meeting agenda, visit www.ucfsd.org.

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