East Penn board won­ders whether it’s time to start plan­ning for new school

The Morning Call - - LOCAL NEWS - By Gabriela L. Laracca Gabriela L. Laracca is a free­lance writer for The Morn­ing Call.

On Mon­day, hours af­ter 8,300 East Penn stu­dents re­turned to school for their first day back af­ter sum­mer va­ca­tion, district di­rec­tors be­gan plan­ning for even more stu­dents.

Sev­eral school board mem­bers, in­clud­ing Joshua Levin­son and Charles Bal­lard, pushed for a de­mo­graphic sur­vey of the district af­ter hear­ing about ris­ing reg­is­tra­tion rates. Bal­lard sug­gested the district might need to build aca­demic space.

“It takes three years from the time you de­cide to build the build­ing … to even ac­tu­ally get one on the ground,” Bal­lard said. “… We need to know what our plans need to be for the near fu­ture.”

Board mem­ber Ziad Mun­son agreed the district needs a de­mo­graphic study, but em­pha­sized it needs to be done well.

“While speed may be im­por­tant, I think qual­ity is more im­por­tant,” he said. “The last de­mo­graphic sur­vey was not very good. … If that means it’ll take a lit­tle longer, I’d rather wait.”

Their con­cern was prompted es­pe­cially by Wil­low Lane El­e­men­tary, which now has about 104 kinder­garten stu­dents in four sec­tions — 26 stu­dents in each. That, Su­per­in­ten­dent Kim­berly Camp­bell said, is too many.

To more im­me­di­ately deal with the crowd­ing, the district is adding a tem­po­rary teacher to its staff. La­beled as a full­time sub­sti­tute, Marissa Formica will hold the po­si­tion for one school year at a salary of $53,340.

Camp­bell said she could be kept on in fu­ture years, if needed.

Formica’s ad­di­tion and an avail­able class­room will al­low Wil­low Lane to break its kinder­garten class into five sec­tions of 20 or 21 stu­dents each. Formica’s first day is Tues­day.

The district also hired an as­sis­tant vice prin­ci­pal at Em­maus High School to re­place Joshua Miller, who held the po­si­tion since 2015. Jes­sica Thatcher will as­sume the $90,000-salary po­si­tion by Oct. 28.

Thatcher has a bach­e­lor’s de­gree from Mo­ra­vian Col­lege as well as mas­ter’s de­grees from Kutz­town Univer­sity. Thatcher has been an English as a sec­ond lan­guage spe­cial­ist in the Al­len­town School District since 2016, and be­fore that was an art and sci­ence teacher in sev­eral school dis­tricts, in­clud­ing Al­len­town.

“We are in­cred­i­bly ex­cited for Jes­sica to be join­ing us and she will be a great ad­di­tion to the high school lead­er­ship team,” Camp­bell said.

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