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Board looks to include public in upgrade study

Working to upgrade Loyalsock Valley Elementary School, the Montoursville school board looked into the process of a study aiming to assess the needs of the district at its meeting Tuesday.

Board members emphasized a need to communicate their findings and expectations with the public.

Scott Cousin, an architect with Crabtree, Rohrbaugh and Associates, recently met with school officials and toured all Montoursville district facilities.

Depending on what the board prioritizes in the upgrades, Cousin presented a preliminary 10-month time scale for the study with project bidding in April 2021, awarding the contract by May 2021.

Construction would take place during a 14-month period with work focused over the course of two summers.

First, “we’ll start defining goals,” Cousin said. “I think one of the things we want to do early on is work with board members, administration and the public.”

By the end of that process, Cousin said he will present options for the goals.

Some of those renovation options will provide different sets of strengths, but it’s up to the public and school officials what they would like to prioritize.

Then the study will move towards gathering information.

“We’re going to get a good understanding of your educational program,” said Cousin, including its strengths, weaknesses and where the district would like to improve.

Enrollment projections and space utilization will also play a role, he said.

Christina Bason, superintendent, said a meeting to discuss the upgrades should take place in a public hearing separate from a board meeting.

“They’re large enough discussions that need to take place in their own time,” she said.

David Shimmel said he wanted residents in the area to be active in the process.

“One of the priorities for us is to make sure the public is fully engaged, fully aware,” he said. “Ultimately it’s a decision we have to make but we need the public’s input and to know what they’re thinking.”

His thoughts were echoed in statements by various board members including Dottie Mathers, Daniel Albert and Ronald Snell.

The school board was given the option of creating a steering committee composed of various members beyond the school board, however, Shimmel said he would advocate against that.

“Unless you bring in a public that is really tied into the district in some way, shape or form, and are knowledgeable education-wise and with the facility, you have to bring them up to speed,” he said. “That’s important and that takes time.”

The school board’s next meeting is slated for 7 p.m., Feb. 25, at the district office meeting room in the high school, 50 N. Arch St.

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