Par­ents or­ga­nize in ef­fort to save school

The Ambler Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - By Eric Devlin

7he reFRm­men­daWiRn WR FORse 0aWWisRn Av­enue EOe­men­tary School at the end of this school year has left many par­ents up in arms.

With the dead­line re­gardinJ Whe faWe Rf 0aWWisRn Av­enue loom­ing, a meet­ing was heOd aW Am­bOer BRrRuJh HaOO SeSW. 19 fRr anyRne in­ter­ested in get­ting in­volved WR save 0aWWisRn Av­enue.

0aWWisRn Av­enue SarenWs 5iFh 3aOumbR, -Re and Sandy Hu­niFuWW and 7aera Graeff Oead a dis­Fus­siRn re­gard­ing steps to hope­fully stop the school board from shuWWinJ dRwn Whe sFhRRO.

3aOumbR said Whe :is­sahiFkRn SFhRRO BRard had not been clear in its ra­tio­nale WR FORse 0aWWisRn Av­enue. He said mRsW Rf Whe in­fRr­ma­tion dur­ing the pre­sen­taWiRn was JaWhered frRm Whe disWriFW’s web­siWe, buW many as­sumSWiRns wRuOd be made due WR a OaFk Rf an­swers.

3aOumbR waOked Whe au­di­ence through the var­i­ous

events that have tran­spired since the June meet­ing to bring them up to speed. ee men­tioned each of the school board meet­ings and ad­dressed the newly formed Community fn­put droup, not­ing how the topic of Mat­ti­son Av­enue had been re­moved from the dis­cus­sion top­ics. ee also ad­dressed the Oct. 1 and 8 pub­lic hear­ings tak­ing place to dis­cuss Mat­ti­son Av­enue.

qhe most strik­ing point malumbo pre­sented came when he dis­played a map mea­sur­ing the dis­tance be­tween Bor­ough eall and the lo­ca­tion of each board mem­ber’s house. Ac­cord­ing to the map, not one board mem­ber lives within seven min­utes of the Ambler community, show­ing a lack of rep­re­sen­ta­tion on the school board that he and many oth­ers felt should be ad­dressed.

malumbo also ad­dressed rea­sons for con­cern re­gard­ing the clos­ing of Mat­ti­son Av­enue: po­ten­tial for in­creased taxes, high risk for un­der­served and low-in­come students and detri­men­tal im­pact to the fam­ily and stu­dent ex­pe­ri­ence.

“qhis is not a Mat­ti­son is­sue,” malumbo said. “qhere’s re­ally a lot of pieces about this plan that are go­ing to be very broad and have far-reach­ing im­pact for ev­ery other el­e­men­tary school and for ev­ery­body who’s in the dis­trict.”

Joe eu­ni­cutt, a busi­ness an­a­lyst who read the 253-page dis­trict fa­cil­i­ties re­port re­leased in ae­cem­ber, noted that the school dis­trict has the ca­pac­ity to bor­row be­tween A100 mil­lion to A120 mil­lion, which would cover the po­ten­tial cost of ex­pan­sion to any of the other el­e­men­tary schools in or­der to make room for any in­com­ing Mat­ti­son Av­enue students, with­out go­ing to a tax­payer ref­er­en­dum.

“eav­ing the ca­pac­ity to bor­row doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean you have to bor­row,” he said. “fn my mind, it’s kind of like me hav­ing my eome ae­pot credit card with a A10,000 limit, f’m not go­ing to go out and just spend it on buy­ing a hot tub and a sauna and put it in my back­yard just be­cause f hap­pen to have, at some point, been very frugal with my spend­ing.”

eu­ni­cutt said the school board cur­rently car­ries an A18 mil­lion bud­getary re­serve and be­cause the board has money set aside and wants to bor­row against the full ca­pac­ity of its credit, “that’s still money that has to be paid back.”

ee said if the dis­trict un­der­es­ti­mates how much it needs to bor­row, the res­i­dents could see a tax in­crease to cover a po­ten­tial short­fall.

“ft may have po­ten­tial tax im­pli­ca­tions, so f don’t know that any­one on the board can tell you FRn­fiGHnWOy WhDW WhHUH DEsROuWHOy will be no cost over­runs or pos­si­ble tax in­creases af­fect­ing the prop­erty taxes for those of us here, in not just Ambler, but in the sur­round­ing towns, that are also part of the school dis­trict,” he said.

eu­ni­cutt said the idea of a community school is an as­set given Ambler’s di­verse pop­u­la­tion. By hav­ing a school in that community, it al­lows for any type of po­ten­tial de­mo­graphic gap in ed­u­ca­tion WR EH fiOOHG DW Dn HDUOy DJH wLWhLn a close en­vi­ron­ment to help chil­dren feel more com­fort­able and in­te­grate them into the sys­tem.

“rn­for­tu­nately what we’re get­ting is the ex­act op­po­site,” he said.

Sandy eu­ni­cutt spoke on the is­sue of un­der­served and low­in­come students and the risk stu- dents faced if Mat­ti­son Av­enue closed.

She said the prob­lem fac­ing the iatino community was a lack of trans­porta­tion be­cause many fam­i­lies only own one car, and it makes community in­volve­ment DW sFhRRO GLI­fiFuOW EHFDusH IDPily mem­bers are not able to eas­ily drive to school

Af­ter­ward, dra­eff ex­plained how the is­sue does not ap­ply speFL­fiFDOOy WR 0DWWLsRn $vHnuH, EuW to the en­tire dis­trict. She said po­ten­tial re­dis­trict­ing may oc­cur to DFFRPPRGDWH WhH Ln­flu[ RI nHw students. Over­crowd­ing of students in class­rooms and on buses is a con­cern for ev­ery­one, she said.

“We need to get a mes­sage out to par­ents in other schools that clos­ing Mat­ti­son Av­enue is not only go­ing to af­fect Mat­ti­son students, but it also could po­ten­tially af­fect their students, and it prob­a­bly will,” she said.

“qhe way that we over­came Mat­ti­son be­ing closed last time was mak­ing sure the par­ents in other schools knew what the po­ten­tial im­pact was,” malumbo said. “So if they’re sit­ting right there, right now, say­ing that’s a Mat­ti­son is­sue, my kid does not go to Mat­ti­son, it’s not go­ing to im­pact me, you ab­so­lutely need to share these facts you heard tonight be­cause it will.”

ee men­tioned four ways that community mem­bers could get in­volved: con­tact­ing school board mem­bers, sign­ing up as a vol­un­teer, at­tend­ing pub­lic hear­ings and join­ing the Face­book group “Sup­port­ers of Mat­ti­son Av­enue ble­men­tary School stay­ing Ombk.”

fn at­ten­dance for the dis­cus­sion was state Rep. qodd Stephens, R-151, who said while there wasn’t any­thing he could do at a state level, he viewed his role as “Dn DGvRFDWH” Ln hHOSLnJ WR finG an­swers to a num­ber of ques­tions that re­main unan­swered. ee said he would be sit­ting down with a sPDOOHU JURuS RI SHRSOH WR fiJuUH out if the pri­mary is­sue was clos­ing the achieve­ment gap among mi­nor­ity and lower-in­come students, or keep­ing the el­e­men­tary school open.

“f’m not a de­ci­sion maker here and the school board ul­ti­mately has the author­ity to make the de­ci­sions,” Stephens said.

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