The Berks-Mont News (http://www.berksmontnews.com)

Boone board makes case for closing Amity Primary Center


By Andrew Miller, For Journal Register News Service

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

“While it may not be a popular decision, it’s my job to watch your money; it’s my job to watch the programs,” Daniel Boone School District Superintendent Dr. Gary L. Otto told an audience of district parents and residents Monday night after the administration recommended to the school board the closure of Amity Primary Center after the conclusion of the current school year. It is a move that would save the district approximately $630,000 each year.
In the district’s proposed plan, Amity Primary Center’s grades 1 and 2 would relocate to Amity Intermediate Center while its kindergarten classes would relocate to Monocacy Elementary Center, starting with the 2013-2014 school year.
The district had invested $9 million in renovations in the school, a move that had raised the eyebrows of some residents. According to Otto, a previous administration planned the renovation project for the Amity Primary Center during the 2007-2008 school year.
He said the recommendations were made to renovate the building back because enrollment was stable and still projected to rise. “That was six years ago. Six years is a long time when you’re considering enrollment projections of students,” he said.
“Most importantly, the building’s systems were failing. The roof was 38 years old and leaking regularly. Windows were leaking in various parts of the building. The boiler was failing. The sprinkler system was leaking and had leaked onto the gym floor, resulting in an expensive repair. The PA and fire alarm systems were deteriorated. There was no air conditioning in the building, causing excessive heat on the third floor and it was difficult to regulate heat in the months like February,” he added.
“The recommendation to close it now is the result of factors that the district is currently facing, and will be facing going forward, with funding and decreasing enrollment,” Otto said
The district is currently facing a $5 million gap in the budget for the 2013-2014 school year.
Under the district’s tabulated enrollment figures and projections, the elementary enrollment in the district is projected to decrease by 202 students in 2013-2014 from the 2010-2011 school year. If Amity Primary Center would remain open next school year, enrollment at Amity Intermediate Center would drop another 12 students. AIC already has 12 empty classrooms. APC’s enrollment would drop from the current 363 to a projected 316.
“We knew we were close last year. The board asked the administration to do an extensive study, we did,” said Otto, referring to an elementary school facilities classroom usage study conducted by the district in the 2011-2012 school year. “We didn’t think we were quite ready for it; the terrain has changed.”
According to Otto, the closure of Amity Primary Center would not disrupt any elementary attendance boundaries and would allow the district to avoid any redistricting.
No educational programs or services will be lost due to the closure; they will just be moved to a new location. Class sizes will remain the same at around 22-25 students per classroom and there are no plans for any satellite classrooms.
“Art teachers will keep their art rooms, Music teachers will keep their music rooms, Computer teachers will keep their computer labs,” said Otto. “We do not have to eliminate any of that.”
While the residents and parents who attended the Feb. 4 meeting in the Daniel Boone Middle School auditorium understood the recommendation and agreed with the district’s thinking, many expressed a desire to keep their siblings on the same bus and attend the same school, despite a plan that would split Amity Primary School’s would-be kindergarteners and elementary school students between different buses and schools.
This spilt is due to the availability of in-classroom restroom facilities at Monocacy Elementary Center, while Amity Intermediate Center had not been built with kindergarten students in mind.
If the Amity Primary Center is closed, the district would then recommend that that they eventually reoccupy a portion of the building as a district administration building after their lease expires at their current location, the Matthew Brooke building in Birdsboro. This would save the district an addition $100,000 annually. They would also have the option to sell or lease the building.
If enrollment numbers do turn around with new potential development in the district, in the neighborhood of 400 additional students would need to enroll before the district would look into reinstituting the use of the building.
“I actually think we can absorb a few extra students over the next couple of years just with this (recommended) arrangement before we would have to reopen APC,” said Superintendent Otto.
May 6 would be the earliest the school board can make a final decision on whether or not to close the existing Amity Primary Center.