After fervent discussion and two failed motions, the Saucon Valley School Board voted to approve $2.4 million in field house renovations at its Dec. 6 meeting.
The motion passed with a vote of 5-3. School board members Sharon Stack and Lanita Lum changed their votes to yes after discussing safety concerns, while school board member Edward Inghrim was absent for the vote. The three "no" votes came from members Mike Karabin, Susan Baxter and Bryan Eichfeld.
“,” board member Sandra Miller said, addressing fellow school board members before the last vote. “We are failing to do our duty with (these) drawn-out discussions.”
Miller said the issues related to renovating the field house have been discussed at least three times over the past four years.
“The field house is disgusting. It needs to be fixed,” Lum said. “(But) I don’t like the fact that in this economy, we are adding 3,000 square feet.”
She explained that she changed her vote due to safety concerns, but said she does not want to see a tax increase or programs sacrificed due to this project.
“Expanding in this economy doesn’t make sense,” said Eichfeld.
“I don’t know how relevant the economy is at this point,” school board member Ralph Puerta said. “There are still going to be kids in the school in 10 years. We’ve got to do something with it.”
Renovations will include improvements to the heating and air conditioning systems, and plumbing and electrical systems. In addition, there will be renovations to the locker rooms and visiting areas, as well as the construction of an addition that will house the weight room and public restrooms.
The school board also approved stadium upgrades suggested by the district’s insurance carrier at a cost of $147,000.
Soccer field drain removal was also approved at a cost of $57,000.
The school board did not approve replacing the stadium's current cinder track with (at a cost of $457,500), nor did they approve replacing the field hockey field (at a cost of $271,810).
In other business, the school board voted to allow superintendent Sandra Fellin to advertise for the position of an all-in-one band and chorus director. Fellin said there may not be someone out there who is able to do both and be a good fit for the district, but said she would like to at least look. If someone is found to fill the position and the consolidation of the current middle and high school positions is approved, it would eliminate band for fourth grade students.
In a letter that was later posted on the Saucon Valley School District website, Fellin said the combining of middle and high school directorships is only "one 'option' for board consideration."
"I asked to see if such a person might be out there, so when positions are taken into consideration for replacement, I would have an answer if asked if we could reduce staffing," she wrote.
If no suitable candidate is found by January, "the board would need to decide between the remaining options of replacing both positions or replace with one full time band and one part time chorus," she added.
At the meeting, Fellin and principal Eric Kahler also announced two changes they would like to see at the high school.
They are looking at taking away a few art classes and providing pre-engineering classes instead. Fellin said the classes that would be cut would be jewelry-making classes.
Also, Fellin said she would like to have a dean of students at the high school to help assistant principal Lorie Gamble deal with numerous small infractions occurring everyday, so that Gamble can do more than just discipline students. The person in mind is a middle school math teacher and the creation of the position would not cost the district any money, according to Fellin.