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Quakertown district delays action on aging elementary school


Quakertown residents arrived with plenty of comments and questions but came away with few answers at a recent meeting to decide the future of Quakertown Elementary.

Board members ultimately decided to continue the school’s current K-5 configuration through the 2023-2024 academic year, keeping staff and students under a cloud of uncertainty that has hung over the site for more than a decade.

Packing the normally near-empty administration room, parents, residents and teachers passionately argued that any repurposing of the building would not only affect QE students but also neighboring schools, causing overcrowding — and, with it, more behavioral issues and further deterioration in grades and test scores.

“We’re the ones teaching the class sizes in the 30s and dealing with the negative behaviors and social concerns that come with crowded classrooms,” said teachers union president and longtime QE teacher Ryan Wieand.

Vacating QE would force administrators to add a grade at Strayer Middle School, an increase of 300-plus students. Many say the school’s climate and academics have suffered since the absorption of Milford Middle School students following that school’s closure in 2017. During the meeting, parent Melissa Tomlinson cited data showing a drop in PSSA math scores at Milford Middle from 87 percent proficient and advanced prior to the merger with Strayer to just 44 percent proficient and advanced in 2019, before the pandemic and its attendant learning loss. “Those detrimental results are here,” she said.

Built in 1929, QE is the oldest school in the district, and with that comes a host of issues. The building is not ADA compliant, there is asbestos in the floor tiles, and its 20th-century wooden doors don’t meet modern security requirements, raising issues about equity in a school where nearly 25 percent of the population is Hispanic and Black. While minor renovations have occurred over the years, it is estimated a major renovation would cost between $17 million to $22 million.

Board President Glenn Iosue reiterated there was no plan to close the school but said directors needed to figure out what to do with the students should renovations be approved. Citing possible exposure to asbestos and lead, he said doing that type of work while the building was occupied would be very difficult. He also noted a lack of space for modular buildings, which cost about $120,000 per unit.

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