Decision on opening Edgewood put off
POTTSTOWN >> The Pottstown School Board is not yet ready to decide on re-opening the former Edgewood Elementary School.
Re-opening the school, last used as a Pottstown School building in 2014, is just one of a number of major — and potentially expensive — decisions the board faces.
The decisions and options are all inter-related in such a way that any decision made affects several others.
Perhaps the most urgent issue driving the need to act is the uncertainty of whether the 40-yearold boiler in the administration building on Beech Street will last
Although an alternative has been identified if the boiler fails, its pending demise underlines a number of issues at the former Washington School which could ultimately cost as much as $4 million or $5 million to repair and/or replace, according to early estimates.
If the board determines the current building is too old to be worth the investment, it drives a whole cascade of questions, such as where would the administration move?
The annex building on North Franklin Street is not large enough. Other suggestions have included space in the high school, which might leave PCTV, which has its studios there, without a home.
Another option is using space in Edgewood, either as a fifth-grade center and administration building; or even as a full elementary school.
The decision to close Edgewood, the district’s newest building, and renovate the remaining four elementary schools was made in 2012 after many years of proposals, counter proposals and indecision.
Currently, the building is rented out to two tenants — Head Start and Cottage 7, a private special education school to which public schools send students in need of emotional support services.
Add in the growing consensus among the administration that moving the district’s entire fifth grade into Pottstown Middle School, where behavior problems continue to frustrate teachers and administrators alike, may have been a mistake, and the potential interaction of decisions becomes even more complex.
However, re-opening a school has a fixed timeline and at the Sept. 20 board meeting, Superintendent Stephen Rodriguez wanted to make sure he understood the board’s will.
“In order to make Edgewood anything by the 2019/2020 school year, which would be 11 months from now, certain actions would immediately have to take place and this board would be in the uncomfortable position of making decisions very quickly, probably as soon as next board meeting,” said Rodriguez.
“I want to make sure that I heard that at this time, while we do want to look at our structures closely and carefully, we are not ready to make the decision to open Edgewood by the 2019/2020 school year,” Rodriguez said.
“In order to have Edgewood open by August 2019, many things would have to happen to get that building ready. It feels like a long time, but if you actually look at it, board meeting by board meeting, it’s not that long and that decision would have significant impact on taxes and the budget and those decisions would have to be made by October,” he said.
“There is urgency with regard to some of our issues, but the board felt there is no way it could make a quick decision on that without more information in terms of what it would cost, and the public deserves a chance to weigh in on it,” he said. “If this the understanding that I need to walk away with, all you need to do is stay silent. If I am incorrect, you need to correct me now.”
The board remained silent.
But Robert Decker did not.
Head of the Pottstown High School math department and an officer in the Federation of Pottstown Teachers, Decker expressed disappointment at the delay in moving forward with any change that would improve the situation at the middle school.
For two years the district has struggled with teacher and parent complaints about discipline problems at the middle school. Last March, more than 20 students and parents stood before the school board and said something has to change. New measures were put in place, but continued complaints suggest they have not been entirely successful.
“I’m concerned about Mr. Rodriguez’s statements about the delay in looking at Edgewood for next year,” said Decker.
“I understand there are significant time issues, but I also need to reiterate that some kind of action is needed to reduce the issues with the student population at the middle school,” said Decker.
“The federation, like the administration and the board, all made a decision, which seemed like the correct decision with the information we had, to move that school to a 5/8 configuration. It seemed like the right decision, but I think now, I think most of us or all of us would agree that it didn’t quite play out the way we expected it to. And although snap decisions are not good things, we do need to do something about that,” said Decker. “And that situation needs to be looked at and addressed, for the good of everyone.”
The next joint meeting of the facilities and finance committees, where these matters will continue to be explored, is scheduled for Oct. 11.
A parents group from Edgewood Elementary School, along with Edgewood students, protesting the Pottstown School Board’s decision to close the school in 2012.
Currently occupied by two tenants, the Edgewood building was last used as a Pottstown Public School building in 2014.