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Pennsbury Could Redistrict Elementary Schools

Board hires firm to review potential Pennwood renovations that could cost $20-$45 million

One elementary school in the Pennsbury School District would likely close as part of a potential redistricting while a middle school could be renovated at a cost of $20-$45 million.

Superintendent Kevin McHugh announced at Thursday's school board meeting that one of the administration's proposed 2012-2013 goals is the formation of a committee to examine elementary enrollment and space utilization and make recommendations for consolidation and redistricting. The redistricting could be in place in 2013-2014.

He said the district has some underutilized schools and others at or over capacity, and redistricting would likely result in consolidation.

"I dont think it will go beyond one elementary school but I do think there is a good possibility one elementary school could be consolidated in this process," he said.

After the meeting, he told Patch there is "no preconceived notion at this time" on what school might close.

He said the committee would be comprised of parents of students from each school, other community members, some principals and some board members. The superintendent acknowledged redistricting would stir emotions in the community.

"It's the third rail of education," he said.

Dr. McHugh will ask the board to approve his 2012-2013 goals in September and hopes the committee can begin meeting in October and make its recommendations in January.

Board member Simon Campbell indicated he would prefer the district prioritize the sale of the Pennwood Middle School, possibly to a charter school. He was the lone dissenting vote Thursday when the board approved the hiring of a consultant for $3,000 to update the districtwide feasibility study for the possible renovation of the school. Pennwood, in Yardley, was built in the early 1950s.

"I'm struggling to figure out how we get through all this financially. We're in unprecedented times," Campbell said.

McHugh and board secretary Daniel Rodgers agreed to Campbell's request that the district look into the market value of Pennwood. But after the meeting the superintendent expressed bemusement.

"I don't know who would buy a building that's falling down," he said.

The superintendent confirmed the district has estimates ranging from $20 million to $45 million for the project.

Board member Christopher Cridge stressed that the $3,000 study does not obligate the district to the renovations.

Another proposed goal for 2012-2013 is an increased focus on writing across all curriculum areas. That pleased board President Allan Weisel, who said he and his wife were critics of the district's writing initiatives when their children attended district schools.

"We have no articulated program," acknowledged McHugh.

"We want every teacher to be a teacher of writing," the superintendent added.

Other proposed goals include:

  • looking at facilities needs at Boehm Middle School, built in the late 1950s;
  • continued planning for the sale or leasing of the district's warehouse building on Cabot Boulevard;
  • a quality review of the Gifted Education Program in kindergarten through eighth grade; and
  • recommending the purchase of a student information management computer system.

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