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

Daniel Boone School Board discusses keeping Birdsboro Elementary open


By Denise Larive, For Digital First Media

Friday, January 19, 2018

Daniel Boone School Board members will further discuss on Jan. 22 the issue of keeping the Birdsboro Elementary Center building open as a district school.

Under the district’s current elementary reconfiguration plan, Birdsboro Elementary Center is scheduled to close as a district school in June.

Newly sworn in school board member Aaron Durso, who is also the Birdsboro borough manager, motioned on Dec. 4 “to give the administration time to come forward with a plan to reopen Birdsboro Elementary Center.”

His motion was approved 5-3.

James R. Thompson, of Thompson Associates Architects and Planners, Harrisburg, submitted a proposal of $73,655 to study Birdsboro Elementary Center’s capital needs and determine future repair costs.

The district is in its final phase of the elementary reconfiguration plan, conceived of by both Thompson and district Superintendent James P. Harris in early 2016.

Birdsboro Elementary Center’s current fifth-graders are the only grade currently in the building.

They will matriculate to the Daniel Boone Middle School in the fall, resulting in an empty building.

Harris has proposed that Birdsboro Elementary Center then be used for the district’s current pre-K program and the future site of the district’s administrative offices.

Harris said Dec. 4 that he is working on an agreement for the YWCA to be located at Birdsboro Elementary Center, and for River Rock Academy to occupy the entire former Amity Primary Center building, which now also houses the administrative offices.

Thompson’s $73,655 proposal is to study two different building uses and designs, and to be completed within two months of the board approving the study.

The proposal was submitted almost two years after Thompson presented his “district-wide Educational Assessment and School Capacity Analysis,” on Feb. 25, 2016, at a cost of $16,000.

That study indicated that repairs at the district’s buildings would cost $13 million over the next 10 years.

It also resulted in the elementary reconfiguration plan, which was estimated to save the district $540,000.

Previous board President Michael D. Wolfe, said in February 2016, that the facility study was not conducted as a prelude to closing Birdsboro Elementary Center due to declining enrollment.

“We realized (when looking at the 2013 Facilities Reserve Study) that we needed an architect to look at that study — and all areas in the district — to determine what we should be budgeting each year for maintenance needs,” said Wolfe.

The 20-year Facilities Reserve Study done in 2013 cost the district $69,000.

It estimated that $41 million is needed over the next 20 years to keep all district buildings operational.

The board started its capital reserve fund in 2016-17 with $500,000.

“The reversal to not close Birdsboro Elementary Center at the end of this school year requires more than saying don’t close — facility-wise, academically, people have moved on,” said Harris on Dec. 4, adding, “The [reconfiguration] plan was submitted to the state, and it affects our budget.”

Thompson said a preliminary evaluation at Birdsboro Elementary indicates the following capital needs: eroding masonry and cracking (requiring $20,000 of masonry testing), mold and moisture problems, some ceilings need to be replaced, and there are mechanical and electrical issues.

In order for the building to be ADA compliant (Americans with Disabilities Act), some doors need to be replaced, sprinklers added, and modern energy codes implemented.

“The pneumatics are on its last leg,” said Thompson, adding, “There are very poor environmental controls in that building and that’s putting it lightly.”

“The masonry will deteriorate faster and faster, and since they’re not under appropriate environmental controls now . . .”

“I will show two designs: for office, pre-K and community programs, and then for grades two through five, that would operate as Amity Elementary Center. There are pros and cons and costs to bring up to “like new” for long term service. Systems and finishes should be equitable to those in Amity Elementary Center.”

“I really see this ass two different scenarios: site and building reconfiguration,” he said, citing the parent and bus drop-off, pick-up areas, that Adams Street is narrow, and there should be “child safe” zones at the building.

Wolfe said the district and board knew two years ago that renovating Birdsboro Elementary Center would be a big expense.

“It has mold,” said Wolfe.

“If there are asthmatic children there, that’s a problem, children with a disability — a problem, if there is a fire ... do we want to put kids in that building with those deficiencies?”

He said the board needs to know what it can do short term and long term.

The board approved for the study to not exceed $73,655.