Firm: Schools’ reconfiguration feasible option

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Robert Pillar, director of Educational Archetecture at Crabtree, Roherbaugh and Associates presents his finding in a feasibility study on the Jersey Shore School District during a meeting at the Jersey Shore School Districs Administration offices Monday.

JERSEY SHORE — An architectural firm has determined that Jersey Shore Area School Board’s potential plan to reconfigure its buildings is feasible.

Crabtree, Rohrbaugh and Associates Architects presented its findings of a districtwide feasibility study on Monday. The district administration has recommended reconfiguring the school buildings to house kindergarten to second grade; grades three to six; and grades seven to 12.

The district is considering closing Avis and Salladasburg Elementary schools and doing a districtwide reconfiguration in order to fight its deficit of $1.266 million, according to the last update on March 28 by Ben Enders, district business manager.

In closing the two schools, Jersey Shore Area Elementary would become kindergarten to second grade, the current middle school would become grades three to six and the current high school would become grades seven to 12 — if the school board chooses to go through with the administration’s recommendation.

“Closing those two and then reconfiguring the grades … One of the first questions is, is there sufficient space in the high school for the seventh and eighth grades, approximately 400 students, is there sufficient space?” said Merrill Sweitzer, board member.

“Yes, there is,” said Robert Pillar, director of educational architecture at Crabtree, Rohrbaugh and Associates Architects. “If you can see by the utilization analysis, it will accommodate those students easily.”

He said he did not personally design what that arrangement would physically be.

“But simply looking at the numbers and walking through the school, I’m sure we could be able to determine it. You have enough space. You have enough chairs … There are enough spaces for all of the students in that grade level configuration,” he said.

He projected student population numbers for 2021, according to state Department of Education numbers and compared it to the capacity numbers he determined after visiting the district schools.

His results were as follows for the administration’s recommended reconfiguration:

• Elementary had 540 projected enrollment, 900 capacity and 60 percent utilization.

• Middle school had 677 projected enrollment, 1,026 capacity and 66 percent utilization.

• High school had 1,110 projected enrollment, 1,466 capacity and 76 percent utilization

• The district overall had 2,327 projected enrollment, 3,392 capacity and 69 percent utilization.

According to his data, the projections for a kindergarten through fifth grade, sixth through eighth grade and ninth through 12th grade would not be possible because elementary would be over-capacity. The configuration for kindergarten through fourth, fifth to eighth and ninth through 12th would also be over-capacity at the elementary level.

He said he determined another configuration would also be feasible, which would be kindergarten to third, fourth to seventh and eighth to 12th grade.

Those results, using the same projected estimates for 2021 populations were:

• Elementary had 707 projected enrollment, 900 capacity and 79 percent utilization.

• Middle school had 675 projected enrollment, 1,026 capacity and 66 percent utilization.

• High school had 945 projected enrollment, 1,466 capacity and 64 percent utilization.

• The district overall had 2,327 projected enrollment, 3,392 capacity and 69 percent utilization.

At the January hearings for closing the schools, the administration reported figures based on the feasibility study of 2010. Dr. Jill Wenrich, superintendent, recommended using a reconfiguration model of kindergarten through second at which was predicted at 70 percent capacity, third to sixth at 74 percent and seventh to 12th at 93 percent capacity.

However, the different number predictions based on previous results from Crabtree, Rohrbaugh and Associates Architects were noted.

“I’m just trying to understand how we are supposed to reconcile these gaps in usage from the feasibility study you gave us in 2010 to now. It’s very confusing,” said Kelley Wasson, board president.

Pillar said it was most likely due to usage changing.

“I was not involved in the 2010 study, so I don’t know exactly what the spaces were considered at that time,” he said. “I recorded the utilization according to what it is being used as now.”

The board has until April 30 to decide on closing one school, two schools or no schools.

Present at the meeting were members Wasson, Michelle Stemler, Harry Brungard, Sweitzer, Karen Stover, Christopher Fravel, Dr. John Pecchia and Craig Allen. Member Mary Thomas was absent.

The next scheduled work session is for 7 p.m. April 11 at the District Service Center, 175 A and P Drive.