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Chester County Press

Avon Grove to add modular classrooms at Penn London Elementary School

01/31/2017 03:32PM ● By Steven Hoffman

There are still more than four months remaining in the current school year, but the Avon Grove School District is already looking forward to the new school year that will begin in the fall, when a full-day kindergarten program is being implemented in the district.

Preparations for the full-day kindergarten program continued at the Jan. 26 school board meeting as the Avon Grove School District reached an agreement with Mobilease for the installation and lease of modular classrooms at the Penn London Elementary School.

The agreement is subject to, and contingent upon, the school district obtaining all the necessary approvals to install the modular classrooms from Penn Township.

With the expansion to a full-day program, the district expects K-2 enrollment in Penn London Elementary to grow. Second-grade classes will be held in the modular classrooms.

Avon Grove is adding the full-day kindergarten program to boost academic achievement as children will have more instructional time to master literacy and math concepts. Children will also have more time to build social and emotional skills that are necessary in school.

In other business at the Jan. 26 meeting, school board vice president Brian Gaerity, who serves on the Finance and Budget Committee, said that the committee got its first look at the budget for the 2017-2018 school year.

The Avon Grove School Board already approved an opt-out resolution declaring that the tax increase would stay within the limits of the Act 1 Index, which for Avon Grove is 3.30 percent. That was one of the preliminary steps to developing the annual spending plan. At this early stage, the budget projects expenditures of $94.8 million, which would be a significant increase over the current fiscal year. The district would need to dip into its fund reserve for $9.2 million to balance the spending plan as it stands now. However, at this point, district officials haven't started paring down the expenditures yet. That process will play out over the next few months. Gaerity said that the district's state-mandated PSERS contribution is going up by an additional $1 million. According to documents on the school district's website, Avon Grove's retirement costs will exceed $10 million for 2017-2018.

Avon Grove's taxable assessed values have increased by $3.9 million this year, so the district's revenues are growing. The budget, as it currently stands now, anticipates no increase in funding from the state and no tax increase at the local level to generate additional revenues. The spending plan will undergo multiple revisions as the school board makes a variety of funding decisions in the coming months. A proposed final budget is expected to be adopted in April, and the school board is scheduled to approve the final budget at the June 8 school board meeting.

In his report about Facilities Committee activities, board member Edward Farina provided his colleagues with an update about the repairs that are necessary to the roof of the Avon Grove High School. Farina said that the roof was evaluated and a majority of it is failing and will need to be replaced. It could cost between $2.9 million and $3.9 million to make the necessary repairs. Farina said that the administration has been directed to develop a plan for repairs that will take into consideration other work that may be necessary for the building in the next few years.

Superintendent Dr. Christopher Marchese talked about how the district recently hosted two dozen superintendents from Chester and Montgomery counties. Avon Grove was able to highlight some of the technology education initiatives in the district for the visiting superintendents, including a tour of the new television studio at the high school. Avon Grove also showcased the drones that are utilized by students.

Marchese also recognized the contributions of the nine members of the Avon Grove School Board for School Director Recognition Month. Charles Beatty III has been serving as a representative from Region I since 2011. He serves on the Finance Committee and CCIU Legislative Council. Herman Engel, a board member since 2010, represents Region III. He is the chair of the Curriculum Committee and serves on the Finance Committee. Edward Farina, who has been a member of the board since 2013 as a Region II representative, is the chairman of the Facilities Committee and serves on the Curriculum Committee. Bill Wood was appointed to fill a Region III vacancy in 2016. He serves on the Curriculum Committee and the Policy Committee. Tracy Lisi joined the school board in 2015. She represents Region II and serves as the chairman of the Personnel Committee and serves on the Policy Committee. Jeffrey Billig has served on the school board since 2015. He serves on the Facilities Committee and the Personnel Committee, and represents Region II. Patrick Walker has served on the school board since 2013. He is the chairman of the Policy Committee and also serves on the Facilities Committee. He represents Region I on the school board. Also serving Region I is Brian Gaerity, the board's vice president. He has served on the board since 2013, and was also a school board member in 2011. He is the chairman of the Finance Committee and also serves on the Personnel Committee. The longest-tenured member of the board is Bonnie Wolff, who has served since 2003. Wolff is the current school board president and also serves on the CCIU Board and the CCIU Authority Board. She represents Region III.

The school board approved the formation of the Communications/Community Engagement Committee and the Co-Curricular Committee of the School Board of Directors.

The school board's next Committee-of-the-Whole meeting will take place on Thursday, Feb. 9 at 6 p.m. The next regular school board meeting will be held on Thursday, Feb. 23 at 7 p.m. Both meetings take place at the Avon Grove Intermediate School.