Bucks County Herald

Quakertown shifts attention to shuttering Tohickon Valley

Decision made to close next June 18

BARRIE JOHN MURPHY

Quakertown school board members clashed over the timing of a hearing to close Tohickon Valley Elementary as administration reiterated its desire to close the building next June.

Board member Bob Smith questioned why last Thursday’s hearing was held in the middle of summer when so many families were away and four board members were absent.

His colleague, Stephen Ripper, replied the district was simply following Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) guidelines.

“The PDE did not require specific dates, just timelines,” countered Smith.

“Maybe less people care about Tohickon Valley,” offered director Jonathan Kern.

“They’ve written it off because of what happened to Milford Middle School,” Smith replied bitterly, referring to the near-unanimous decision to close that school July 18 despite calls from parents to wait a year.

Susan G, who requested anonymity because she is an educator in a nearby district, said closing the school would “cause a big impact in the classroom.” She said her daughter, going into second grade, would be fine because she has a support system at home, but there are students who would struggle with the uncertainty surrounding their school, which was built in 1952 and currently has a staff of 55.

Susan said she feared larger class sizes and pointed out that a classroom of 29 students would give rise to a lot more problems academically and behaviorally than 24 students.

“You hurt their long-term success when you pack them in.”

The teacher accused administrators of wanting everything at the high school, which has come under criticism for so-called extravagances such as a dance studio and athletic field upgrades. “You’re forgetting everything is built at the foundation in elementary and middle school.”

Superintendent William Harner denied the high school gets everything, noting that there were 15 fewer teachers there while 18 positions were added at the elementary and middle level.

The school board will determine the school’s fate in November. Closing the school could save the district more than $1 million, according to a district estimate; refurbishing it to bring it up to code would require $8.4 million.

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