Board ponders costly Reamstown Elementary roof

By on November 4, 2015

UntitledThe Cocalico School Board heard more details at its Nov. 2 meeting on capital projects that would fund a new roof for Reamstown Elementary School and complete a district-wide upgrade of phone equipment.

Presentations at a special work session outlined the roof project, estimated at $950,000 to $1.2 million dollars. Reamstown’s roof is 19 years old and leaking in some spots, according to Kurt Eckenroad, director of buildings and grounds.

The replacement will include repairs to a portico above the school’s front entrance, five new rooftop air conditioning units, and two new auto control panels. Eckenroad noted the previous roof had a 10-year warranty; new materials would be covered for 30.

Earlier this fall, the board agreed to commit funds to the work. Members are expected to vote Nov. 16 on whether to send Eckenroad’s specifications out to bid. If approved, work would take place during the summer of 2016.

The board also heard about plans to bring the phones at Adamstown and Reamstown elementary schools and Cocalico High School into line with infrastructure already in place at Denver Elementary, the high school office and administrative offices.

Several district officials noted ongoing problems at Adamstown, where voicemail often receives incoming phone calls. The school had a complete outage over Labor Day.

“We’re dealing with some antiquated systems here,” explained Eckenroad.

A new system provided by Sage Technology Solutions would standardize equipment, give every teacher access to their own voice mail, and allow district-wide four-digit dialing.

New technology would improve the bell and paging system at affected schools, allowing pre-programmed messages and district-wide broadcasts in case of emergency. Kent Sweigart, director of technology, said the system remains an up-to-date option although it is the same one the district begin installing in 2009.

He noted that some of the communication products are also being used by hospitals.

The entire upgrade is estimated at $141,717. The board must still vote to approve the project. Eckenroad said he hoped work could start as early as Christmas vacation with a total time span of six to eight weeks.

Also Monday, the board got an update on clearance and substitute issues from human resources director Sherry Luttrell.

The district has struggled to fill substitute positions this year, reflecting a trend state and nationwide.

In January 2014, the district contracted its substitution services to STS. The company provides teacher subs, as well as nurses and paraprofessionals to districts across the region.

Since 2013, Cocalico teachers have been able to request sick leave electronically, without having to call their administrator.

Several board members questioned whether those two factors have contributed to the routine struggle to provide classroom coverage.

“Why has it been so much more difficult to fill these positions under this system than the previous one?” asked member John Lorah.

Luttrell said some substitutes prefer taking assignments close to their homes, sometimes booking far in advance and other times switching just outside of a 24-hour time frame. That makes last-minute absences the hardest to account for.

Luttrell also talked about the effects of new child abuse clearance standards on her employees. The district has reviewed 497 clearances for contractor and vendors-many of them working on the high school construction project-since July 1. In that same period, 357 volunteers received clearances. Superintendent Bruce Sensenig said Tuesday that no volunteers had been turned down because of the clearance process.

Employees are also now required to complete the clearance process every three years; of the 455 required to do so in 2015, Luttrell said 180 still have not submitted their paperwork.

In other news, auditors from Trout, Ebersole and Groff presented a draft audit for 2014-2015. The auditors provided a clean report with no significant findings.

Don Johnson told board members that the district is on strong financial footing, despite the fact that payments to the state retirement system continue to stretch the budget.

“The larger the school (district), the worse it’s hit,” said Johnson, referring to a government accounting method that shows most districts would have a deficit if called on to pay contributions and accumulated sick pay all at once. “As far as schools go though, you’re in as good a shape as you can be in, given the state of the state.”

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