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New Hope-Solebury adopts final budget, discusses facilities

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At the June New Hope-Solebury School Board meeting, board member Mark Cowell reported that the final budget of $42,234,666, a 2.9 percent increase in property taxes, was unchanged since its initial presentation a month before. The budget passed without comment.

The board appointed Charles Malone as the head of federal programs. He will pursue money available through federal grant funds. There was discussion of placing kiosks like those used in town, in the school parking lots for times the lots are not in use for school functions.

Superintendent Charles Lentz reported on the ranking of New Hope-Solebury as eighth in high schools in Pennsylvania and first in Bucks County. He said U.S. News and World Report called NH-S one of the best in the country.

Looking ahead to next year’s enrolment, Dr. Lentz stated that the district is going to add a fifth grade and possibly a kindergarten depending on the next month’s numbers. At this point there are four third grades, four forth and now five fifth grades.

Board member Liz Sheehan gave a report outlining all the ways the Bucks County Intermediate Unit serves the districts of the county with planning and advisory resources and by providing programs such as hazmat awareness and the “safe to say” program.

Stanley Marcus, another board member, reported that most of the classes at Middle Bucks Institute of Technology are full, with 880 students expected this fall. The facilitie needs about $9.5 million invested in infrastructure.

Two bills before the state legislature would require schools to provide information about eating disorders for grades 5 through 12, according to board member Dana Schwartz. Cowell questioned what a district would actually be required to provide and was told that information is available.

From the audience, Mel Band voiced dismay that in NH-S has part-time health education while in New Jersey, the high schools are required to provide four years of both health and physical education, a fact supplied by Cowell who has been a New Jersey educator. Cowell said NH-S is in compliance with Pennsylvania regulations.

Andrew Ordover, a board member, reported on the trip to Paris for level four and AP French students. A vote was tabled at the previous meeting due to lack of information, especially prices. Band citing Policy 231 insisted the district explore competitive prices and present all the pertinent information publically before a vote. Ultimately the trip was given the go-ahead.

President Deirdre Alderfer speaking for the facilities committee reported that the facilities need $11,275,876 worth of repairs in the near future.

The focus turned to the tennis courts which are in total disrepair and the district has allocated $700,000 for replacement in the same location. Marcus commented that the Board had approved $200,000 to resurface the track and now has the option to put in a turf field for over a million, the process was expected to damage the new track. Marcus suggested putting off the track resurfacing until after the turf if it is to happen.

Cowell said that in waiting, the track will continue its disintegration and will need total replacement. Marcus moved that the contract be limited to engineering and consulting fees until bids are in. A special meeting was tentatively proposed for July to finalize the tennis court replacement.

From the board also, Douglas McDonough on behalf of the policy and human resources committees, proposed action items including giving power to the superintendent to fill budgeted positions, awarding diplomas to graduating seniors and appointing David Francella to complete the term as board secretary. The position was vacated by Andrew Lechman effective at this meeting. In the middle of the long list of action items was one proposal for inclusion on the Pennsylvania State School Boards Association’s 2020 legislative platform asking the organization to advocate for seatbelts on school buses.

Cowell challenged the presence of the proposal in the policy agenda and asked it be singled out for a discussion and later vote.

Marcus read a statement from the Pennsylvania Transportation Board saying investigation of bus accidents across the state causing injury or death revealed it has been 2,615 days since a bus crash.

The cost of adding seatbelts would substantially increase the cost to the district as well as the need to increase the fleet because the buses would accommodate fewer students.

The conversation went around the table with Sheehan insistent that to save one child from injury was enough. Eventually the seven members present voted to ask the PSBA to add seatbelts to their advocacy agenda.

Senior resident Pat Willibanks came to accuse the board of never giving a break to seniors or consider longtime residents. Cowell thanked her for coming, urging her return with others.


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