Digging in…Construction work on Cocalico fields gets approval of school board

By on February 25, 2015

The Cocalico School Board approved more than $7 million in construction and fees related to new roads, parking and athletic fields at the high school at its Monday, Feb. 22, meeting.

School directors also heard a pitch about new textbooks and changes in some curricula.

In two separate actions, the board voted to approve $6.99 million in excavating and building contracts with five different companies and $65,817 in engineering and advertising fees related to prep work.

The second phase of construction is expected to start this spring and wrap just before school resumes in late August. Phil Leinbach of AEM Architects said the project adds 100 parking spaces to the east of an existing lot; a new horseshoe-shaped drive that should improve student pick-up and drop-off; and improved access to athletic fields. It also relocates a multi-purpose field used for soccer, lacrosse and field hockey, moves the baseball fields and adds two out buildings.

A “synthetic field” is being installed by Shaw Sports at a cost of $390,964.

“It is a very comprehensive project,” said Superintendent Dr. Bruce Sensenig. “It cures a lot of ills that have been experienced for a lot of years.”

Sensenig noted there would be less traffic crossing Fourth Street, and that the improvements would do away with some inequalities: the girls’ softball field will get a dugout, and new, permanent bathrooms will be handicap-accessible, unlike portable toilets brought in during past sports seasons.

Board Member Michael Messner voted for the project, noting that he’d been opposed to it in the past. He said his vote was made in support of the board’s overall decision.

Vice President Kevin Eshleman also voted in favor, saying the plans are line with a land-use study that guided the district on how to maximize its property.

The first $500,000 phase started last August with the relocation of the softball field. Eshleman said the “earth-moving” connected with that work garnered public attention, but said the job is about more than athletics.

“We have a great balance of programs here,” Eshleman said. “I think it’s also important to say no new taxes will be the result of this project.”

In other action Monday, the board heard presentations on several new textbooks and curriculum changes teachers hope to implement next school year. Several of the programs have been piloted at Cocalico’s elementary and middle schools this year, said Ella Musser, assistant to the superintendent.

“This will be our biggest textbook adoption in recent years,” Musser said. “A big part of that we have new (state) standards in reading and math.”

Teachers and department heads shared their thoughts on new lines for elementary school reading, middle school math, middle-school English language arts, middle-school English as a second language, and ninth-grade academic literacy.

“With the new Pennsylvania standards, our old program just wasn’t enough to develop the readers, the writers, the critical thinkers we want,” said Jean Ann Hutchison, who has tried out the “Wonders” reading program at Reamstown Elementary. “There are so many more resources. I’m sure I haven’t even tapped into everything yet.”

The district generally adopts new textbooks following a cycle: the elementary music curriculum was also due for a change this year. In all, books sets and online access for students will run the district between $450,000 and $500,000, Musser said after the meeting.

That’s a big jump from the current year, when Musser estimates the district spent about $10,000 on a single class set of Advanced Placement texts.

“We knew that this need was coming,” said board Treasurer John Lorah. “From a financial side, we’ve set aside the funds.”

Sample books will be on display in the board room for a month. The board will vote on final approval at its regular meeting in March.

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