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EPSD board chooses district facilities plan for K-8

The East Penn Board of School Directors observed a moment of silence for Edwin Cortes at the start of the Nov. 13 regular meeting.

The Emmaus High School junior died Oct. 31 from injuries sustained in a two-vehicle crash.

The directors unanimously accepted the feasibility study presented Oct. 23.

They voted 8-1 on Option 2 for realignment of grades K-8. With this option, additions would be built at Lower Macungie Middle School and Eyer Middle School. By placing grades 5 and 6 in one and 7 and 8 in the other, this would free up space at the elementary schools by moving out the fifth grade students. The middle schools would be upgraded to accommodate this model.

Those advocating for this option were intrigued by the potential of keeping the student cohorts together as they progressed from fifth through eighth grade. Speaking of his experiences as a teacher, Director Adam Smith said grades 5 and 6 would do well in a building with an “elementary school flavor” while seventh and eighth grade students would experience more of a “middle school flavor.”

Director Alisa Bowman opined this option better addresses the overcrowding issue at a possible lower cost.

The majority agreed there was potential for greater efficiency, cohesion, consistency, inclusion and additional opportunities for extracurricular activities for these students.

Vice President Jeffrey Jankowski was the dissenting vote. He supported Option 1 for K-8 which would have redrawn boundaries within the district to ease overcrowding at some of the elementary schools. Alburtis Elementary School, Lincoln Elementary School and LMMS would be expanded with additions and Eyer Middle School would require renovations. Jankowski expressed “concerns from an extracurricular and social aspect on the 5-6 and 7-8 model.” He worried how this model may impact activities like the school orchestra and intramural sports.

School Superintendent Dr. Kristen Campbell said this is just the beginning. The next step is engaging an architect and approval of a professional services agreement. The board will be heavily involved with the design, budget and construction phase of the project.

Campbell explained they will follow state Planning and Construction Workbook procedures.

The school directors all agreed the process should be transparent, with greater communication with the public.

Following Business Administrator Robert Saul’s advice, the board unanimously adopted the resolution not to exceed the Act 1 Index for 2024-2025. This caps any potential tax increase at 6.2 percent.

A donation of $10,482.56 from East Penn School District Education Foundation was gratefully acknowledged. The funding is designated for the Project Lead the Way 6-12 program.

In personnel matters, the board accepted the resignations of school psychologist Stephanie Cignarella, effective Jan. 7, 2024, as well as Emmaus High School head coach for boys lacrosse Robert Kornicke and assistant coach Raymond Guffy, effective Nov. 10.

The directors accepted the retirements of school counselor Genise Bishop and fifth grade teacher Lynda O’Connor from Macungie Elementary School, effective June 6, 2024. EHS custodian Timothy Patterson retires Dec. 5.

Campbell called Bishop and O’Connor “rock stars” while noting Bishop was with the district for 21 years and O’Connor for 20 years. She acknowledged Patterson’s 18 years as an East Penn School District employee.

EHS student representative Julena Patel reported on the close of the fall sports season and Elizabeth Samer spoke about the EHS chess and debate teams. Samer also talked about the new Hydroponics Club, Interact Club, Veterans Day activities and an upcoming gingerbread house competition hosted by Habitat for Humanity.

In her district update, Campbell announced EHS girls cross-country, field hockey and boys soccer earned district titles.

Campbell praised the cast and crew of the recent high school production of “Little Women.”

Sixteen Emmaus students qualified for the 2024 PMEA District 10 Chorus, while several Emmaus art students are assisting with the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission’s Art Sparks program on a mural for Allentown’s Turnpike Service Plaza.

Campbell plugged the East Penn Therapy Dog Program’s online store and the upcoming Senior Thanksgiving Lunch.

Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit Board member Dr. William Whitney discussed the unit’s K-12 Life Skills Program for students with cognitive or physical disabilities. He also praised the EHS Football Buddies Program where team members interact with these students.

Lehigh Career & Technical Institute Joint Operating Committee member Paul Champagne, in his final report, mentioned LCTI’s Nov. 2 open house was a “smashing success.” Roughly 3,500 eighth and ninth grade students from Lehigh County toured the facilities between Oct. 23 and Nov. 3.

There were no requests to address the board.

Before adjourning, Campbell and remaining directors bid goodbye to Jennifer Bowen, Allan Byrd and Paul Champagne. They were recognized for their service with the board. Champagne has served for eight years, Byrd for five and a half years and Bowen for two years.

Levinson announced an executive session was held before the public forum 6:45 p.m. to discuss personnel, safety and security issues.

Levinson also announced the district will be closed Nov. 23-27 for Thanksgiving holiday.

An organizational meeting is scheduled Dec. 4 and the next regular school board meeting is scheduled Dec. 11, both 7:30 p.m. The public can access documents through BoardDocs via a link on the district website.

Departing school directors Allan Byrd, Jennifer Bowen and Paul Champagne are recognized Nov. 13 by the administration and fellow board members as they complete their service with the board.
PRESS PHOTOS BY ED COURRIER Emmaus High School board student representatives Julena Patel and Elizabeth Samer present a report on school happenings at the Nov. 13 meeting.