Members of the Neshaminy community and school board
Pete Spera, a member of the Citizens Advisory Committee, presented what the committee looked at in terms of enrollment trends and what the group's final recommendation to the school board was Tuesday night.
When presented with two options for school closures and consolidations, the committee went with a third, or hybrid, option of the two.
The ultimately recommended closing three elementary schools (Lower Southampton, Oliver Heckman and Samuel Everitt), building a new elementary school at the current Tawanka site on Brownsville Road and adding a larger addition to Pearl Buck Elementary School. This addition, Spera said, would give Neshaminy flexibility when it comes to redistricting as well as providing the district with a cost effective option to respond to future enrollement changes.
In addition, Spera said that the committee recommended that any additional bond money not used for construction be used for instructional improvements, technology and educational environment.
The committee also suggested that Neshaminy use any income from the sale of buildings be designated solely to maintain and modernize the remaining buildings.
The committee based its recommendations on declining enrollment, future enrollment projections trending downward, underutilized buildings and aging buildings coupled with high repair costs and budget shortfalls, Spera said.
Since 1992, Spera said Neshaminy has seen a 33 percent reduction in enrollment and that projections show another decrease in enrollment by 2018.
He also said it would cost the district $40 million to repair all of the buildings that would still have low utilization.
Resident raised their concerns of closing schools, which Spera said that he and the rest of the committee members share.
Some of those issues include the potential for longer bus rides, the affect of closing schools on surrounding neighborhoods, controlling class size and more.
Several residents urged the school board to put the school closure and consolidation plan up for a referendum vote, however board President Ritchie Webb stated that with a referendum you cannot ask what schools to close, the question can be strictly financial.
Should the school board move forward with the committee's recommendations, he reminded the community that there would be a public hearing on what schools to close.