EASD sets sights on middle school track improvements

By on February 10, 2016

The Ephrata Area School District is considering plans to renovate the original track and grandstand behind the Ephrata Middle School. At Monday night’s school board committee meeting, the Budget and Finance Committee updated members on the latest plans, which included draft sketches of a new bleacher and storage area replacement project.

The current storage area beneath the grandstands at the Ephrata Middle School track has almost always been less than ideal due to a poor design which has allowed for a leaky roof. The bleachers and storage garage were designed in such a way that the anchoring pilasters (column) created a less than water tight area below.

Current plans would have those original bleachers demolished. The new structure would be two structures, one over the other. The storage unit would be its own free-standing structure, complete with a long lasting metal roof. Bleachers would be a separate structure built directly over the storage building.

Other improvements to the track facilities include: plans for the track to be resurfaced, a new javelin throwing runway and a widened access path for vehicles. The district is also considering the addition of a new playground, which would be age-appropriate to fifth and sixth grade students.

District Superintendent Dr. Brian Troop explained that when the intermediate school was added to the middle school, the school day included time in conjunction with the mid-day lunch period for fifth and sixth grade students who had been accustomed to a recess time in elementary school to still get some recreation time. An age-appropriate playground would be in keeping with this vision and include ropes features and balance beams.

“Cost for equipment is one consideration,” Troop said. “The other thing we need to look at is the cost of adding the additional six to eight hours of staff time to cover this area each week. But we do see the importance of recess time at this age group.”

Business Manager Kristee Reichard pointed out that to even give a rough estimate of the cost for the total project at this point is very difficult because it has not been put out to bid. She said the district is expecting bids for the project to come in between $600,000 and $700,000.

“These are just preliminary plans at this point,” Reichard said. “Until this goes out to bid we really won’t know what this will cost.”

Should everything go as planned, the district would like to have everything in place to begin demolition work in early June so that construction can be completed by the end of August in time for the start of the 2016-17 school year.

This was the first time that the school board held its meeting in the Ephrata High School’s building located on Washington Avenue.

The board met in the Build a Better Future program’s main classroom, which is housed in the building. The room is set up to simulate an apartment setting where life skills can be taught to students.

Susan Summers-Steffy, the district’s coordinator of Student Support Services, along with course instructor Patrice Laboranti, were both on hand to provide insights to the program.

Although the room currently serves as both a simulated apartment, complete with a full kitchen and laundry center, and a classroom, Laboranti said she hopes that eventually a second classroom might be set up exclusively as a full-fledged working apartment.

Within the Project Build a Better Future program, students who may need a bit extra preparation for independent living post-graduation can receive the hands-on support and training they need in a wealth of real-life areas, from banking and budgeting, to creating a resume and completing job applications.

“Students get a pay check but also get fined for things such as inappropriate behavior or language, Laboranti said. “We teach them how to balance a checkbook, pay their bills like their utilities, cell phone bill etc. We teach them to decide if they can afford things like cable or Internet and teach those things like meal planning, cooking and how to go grocery shopping.”

Students in the program also learn about social skills, team building skills and how to deal with travel planning. The goal is to help transition students who may not have been ready for independent living to have greater options upon graduation.

Already, the results have been impressive. Laboranti said students have earned both part-time and full-time jobs, internships and have also been given opportunities to volunteer throughout the community.

Student Michelle Ellis told board members the class has taught her how to talk on the phone with her classmates and how to give eye contact.

“I’ve learned how to get along with people and how to treat people, the process of cleaning an apartment and what that costs,” she said. “This has been valuable because one day I want to move out and live by myself. After graduation I want to move out and work with animals and clean at the Hampton Inn Hotels. I have a second interview with them soon.”

Steffy explained that currently the program has 12 students but could have as many as 15. She said the Ephrata business community has been very supportive, adding that for the first time she has placed students with the Ephrata hospital.

For additional information on the Ephrata Area School District, visit their website at easdpa.org. Gary P. Klinger always welcomes your feedback at klingerglobal@gmail.com.

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