Bucks County Herald

Palisades school building use to be determined by reorganized board

CLIFF LEBOWITZ

When the Palisades School District resumes consideration in the new year about whether it should make any major changes in its school building use in response to declining enrollment, two of its four school board officers will be first-term directors.

At the board’s public reorganization meeting on Dec. 4, veteran director and officer Robert Musantry, from district Region III (Springfield), was elected board president, replacing James Hallowell, from district Region I (Tinicum/Bridgeton), who is remaining on the board to begin his eighth term as a director.

Veteran board member and officer Carol Clemens (also Region III) remains as secretary.

Shari VanderGast, from Region II, which includes Durham, Nockamixon and Riegelsville, was elected board vice president, while David Haubert, also from Region II, continues a one-year term as treasurer that he began last July, replacing longtime director and officer Bob de Groot, who did not seek re-election last month. Both VanderGast and Haubert began their first four-year terms as directors two years ago.

The board will resume its consideration of any school building changes through the Jan. 3 meeting of its building use ad hoc committee, at 6 p.m. in the high school auditorium. The first full board meeting will be 7 p.m. Jan. 17, in the high school library.

The building use committee includes Musantry and Haubert as representing Regions III and II, and also Eric Gretzinger, as representing Region I. Gretzinger is the board’s third first-term director in the group that started two years ago.

The committee’s Jan. 3 agenda features the results of the community survey that is circulating this month, in a major effort to seek residents’ further input on the subject. The agenda is also to include enrollment projections. At the last committee meeting in November, Gretzinger sharply questioned the accuracy of input from the state on that subject. A segment for public comment is also on the agenda.

The committee’s work has largely been organized around consideration of five separate building change scenarios, including one calling for leaving building use as it is, with the high school, middle school, and three elementary schools each having their own. That was the result of the board’s previous consideration of the topic, during the 2010-11 school year.

So far this time, the scenario calling for closing the middle school has been eliminated. During the committee’s first public comment segment last June, residents questioned whether declining enrollment was actually a problem, and if it was, would the committee consider ideas for increasing enrollment.

For example, extended-family renting was mentioned as a means for providing affordable housing for young families within the district.

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