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Football spectator limit increased

The Oct. 12 virtual Saucon Valley School Board meeting was a positive one, with the biggest news perhaps being that spectator limits have been increased at varsity football and other athletic competitions, thanks to updated COVID-19 guidance from Governor Tom Wolf and the state Department of Health.

Athletic Director Robert Frey explained that the changes would most drastically affect traditionally highly-attended varsity football games, as the new outdoor 20 percent capacity rate would allow a total of 501 people to attend events at the Saucon Valley Athletic Field. Since that number must also include participants such as players, cheerleaders and coaches, the available space left for spectators would allow approximately 250 attendees.

Frey said each participant would then be allotted two tickets each for parents, guardians or others to attend. Athletics taking place in the middle school gym and district pool would have roughly the same ratio of spectator allotments, he said, also with two tickets per participant.

There was also some discussion around allowing students to attend the last two home varsity football games, although there were concerns about staffing and volunteers necessary for supervision. Board member Michael Karabin proposed opening the grass embankment on one side of the field for more spectator attendance, but Frey pushed back on that idea, saying “things have been going very well and one thing we don’t need is a group of 200 students close together on the embankment.”

Board member Sandra Miller suggested instead putting together a plan to allow members of the senior class to attend heavily supervised on Senior Night, which is traditionally the final home game of the season and scheduled for Oct. 30. Ultimately, the board moved on from the topic without any official action being taken on that subject.

The other significant piece of news at the meeting came from the bond refinancing presentation, provided by Jamie Doyle from Public Financial Management (PFM) and Jennifer Caron from Eckert, Seamans, Cherin & Mellott, LLC. Currently, the district has a $2.1 million bank loan at a 3.25 percent interest rate with its incumbent holder, Lafayette Bank.

When the district started exploring refinancing with the Federal Reserve lowering interest rates to all-time levels, “[Lafayette Bank was] willing to come down to 2.42 percent and I said ‘I think you can do better,’” Doyle said. She opted to initiate a competitive bank loan RFP process, instead.

She received a dozen responses, she said, with the best terms coming from Jim Thorpe Neighborhood Bank, who offered a fixed rate of 0.75 percent with no additional terms or conditions. At this rate, the district would save over $50,000 over the next decade. “This is really a great result and exceeded even my expectations,” she said. The board approved the refinancing plan unanimously.

Superintendent Dr. Craig Butler also spoke at some length to give thanks to faculty, staff and administration for what he characterized as a mostly successful return to in-person classes. “I feel like we’re in a good routine. I see our students having fun at school and obeying the rules,” he said, and he particularly praised campus custodians, saying they “nightly do a great job cleaning… the building is spic and span and I am eternally grateful for everyone’s effort.”

Although Butler did acknowledge “some challenges,” which included a confirmed COVID case which forced a temporary closure of the high school during the last week of September, he generally painted a rosy picture of the district’s operations thus far.

Press photos by Chris Haring The Saucon Valley School Board holds the Oct. 12 meeting via Zoom.
Jamie Doyle from PFM shows figures from her bond refinancing presentation.