Parents organize in effort to save school
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.