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BEA feasibility study results presented

ROSE HOOVER/THE EXPRESS Todd Vukmanic, Crabtree, Rorhbaugh & Associates engineer, answers questions from the BEA community after the BEA Feasibility Study presentation on Tuesday night at the Bald Eagle Area High School auditorium.

WINGATE — Last July, the Bald Eagle Area Board of Education approved a Feasibility Study to evaluate student population fluctuation trends, building goals, possible facility upgrades in each of the five district buildings, and to analyze the costs of providing Special Education services in its outlying elementary schools.

The district-wide facilities study was conducted by Crabtree, Rorhbaugh & Associates of Mechanicsburg, at a cost of $10,500. The group has completed similar facility studies for surrounding school districts.

Representatives from Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates presented a summary of the results of the completed Feasibility Study Report at a public informational meeting on Tuesday, April 17 at the Bald Eagle High School.

DEMOGRAPHICS

The issue of declining K-12 student enrollment was presented. From 2000 – 2015 student enrollment in the District decreased 525 students, or a 23.6% decrease. Within the past five- year period, the district has seen a decrease of 165 students or an 8.9% decrease.

In 2000, the district had 2,224 students enrolled. That number declined to 1,641 in 2016, with a projected enrollment of 1,463 in 2021.

BENCHMARK ANALYSIS

Two metrics that are relevant in a facilities assessment are Area per Student and Utilization of Space. The analysis indicated that the district could have as much as 101,719 excess square feet, as compared to the standard. Assuming an annual operations and maintenance cost of $4.42 would mean that the District could be spending as much as $449,597 annually operating and maintaining unnecessary space.

Space utilization analysis indicated that the district currently has 20%-25% excess capacity at the elementary level and 20% – 25% additional capacity at the Middle and High school level when compared to benchmark. As enrollment continues to decline, utilization will also decline.

Building Assessments

Elementary school building facilities at Howard, Mountaintop, Port Matilda, Wingate, and the Middle-High School were evaluated.

Todd Vukmanic, an engineer from Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates, affirmed, “The buildings have all been well-maintained and the bones of the buildings are good.”

However, the group reviewed several major expenses that will need to be completed in the near future. Some of these items were a new roof for Howard Elementary, updating most buildings to meet more stringent codes and ADA regulations, replacement of masonry sealant around the ground level foundations of the buildings, and updating heating and plumbing systems, etc.

THREE COST OPTIONS

r Option1 – Status Quo

Includes renovations to District Educational facilities only. All buildings remain open. Estimated total renovation costs of $16.4 million.

r Option 2 – K-5 Elem. Schools; 6-8 Middle School; 9-12 High School with School Closures

Includes renovations to District Educational facilities, as well as closure of Elementary Schools.

Grade levels remain at K-5 for Elementary students, and 6-8 for Middle School students. Estimated total renovation costs of between $13.1 million and $14 million.

r Option 3 – K-4 Elem. Schools; 5-8 Middle School; 9-12 High School with School Closures

Includes renovations to District Educational facilities, as well as closure of Elementary Schools.

Grade levels remain at K-4 for Elementary students, and 5-8 for Middle School students.

Estimated renovation costs of between $10.6 million and $14 million.

Cost estimates were provided for variables of closing one, two, or all three outlying elementary buildings, and for keeping all schools open.

SPECIAL EDUCATION

The study showed there has been an increase in the special education population. In 2000, there were 198 special education students; in 2018 there were 318.

The elementary special needs population currently being transported from the outlying areas of Howard, Mountaintop and Port Matilda elementary schools is 34 students. There are also nine students in these three elementary schools who could be included in the special needs program, but have refused service.

The district currently staffs five Special Education teachers to support these students at Wingate Elementary School. If special education supports were dispersed at each elementary school, rather than centralized at Wingate Elementary School, approximately 60% of the special needs population could be removed from Wingate. These students would be serviced at each of their local elementary schools. The remaining outlying special needs population would need to remain at Wingate due to Exceptionality.

The study indicated the district would then require only four Special Education teachers, in lieu of the current five staff members, to support the reduced special needs population at Wingate Elementary. However, two additional Special Education teachers would need to be provided at each of the three outlying elementary schools. The district would be required to increase the entire Special Education staff by five additional full-time teachers, to support the required special needs population being serviced at Howard, Mountaintop and Port Matilda elementary schools.

The district would also be required to provide the appropriate special education curriculum and support for each elementary school building. Two classrooms would need to be dedicated to Special Education at each elementary school, as well.

Board members and administrators were in attendance at Tuesday night’s meeting. The hour-long presentation was purely informational, and no decisions were made.

BEA Superintendent Jeff Miles said, “The hope is that we can use this study as a blueprint to help us decide what we will do in the future district wide.”

Miles asked that community members with any questions email him at jeffrey.miles@beasd.net or call him at the District Office at 814-355-4860.

A video of the informational meeting can be viewed on the Eagle Ambassadors YouTube Channel. A summary of the Districtwide Feasibility Study will also be posted on the BEA website at www.beasd.org.

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