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