EAST PENN SCHOOL DISTRICT
A contract agreement under routine business operations sparked a long discussion between East Penn School Board directors on proper disposal of potentially hazardous material on school grounds.
Within recent weeks it was discovered a large amount of construction debris had been buried under 8 to 10 inches of clay on the property of Wescosville Elementary School in a wooded area on the edge of the property.
ALM Abatement Industries, LLC and TCI Environmental Services, Inc. were approved by the board to provide services for safe removal and testing of suspect materials, respectively. The removal is proposed at a cost of $17,835, and testing at $600.
The dump appeared last summer but the source construction site is still unknown. It was not from school building construction, as those buildings are all brick-faced and the material in question includes transite siding. Superintendent Dr. Michael Schilder reported district staff had buried the waste but these employees are no longer working for the district.
After a brief inspection by ALM, asbestos was detected in the debris deposit and the district has since called for its proper disposal.
Schilder confirmed the asbestos waste posed no hazard to the community or the students, via groundwater or otherwise, as it was buried in a clay-lined pit. He did, however, state it was not disposed of properly. The contracted companies ALM and TCI will remove the material in a safe way and treat it properly with water, and then dispose of it in an appropriate landfill, according to Schilder's report.
Removal has been scheduled to start in four weeks, and is estimated to take about five days, according to Steve Onushco, facilities director for the district. ALM's proposal notes the area of the dump is 26 feet wide by 30 feet long and 4 feet deep, approximately one quarter mile from the school. The affected waste may amount to six 15-yard waste containers. ALM will fill the resulting pit with fill material.
Board Director Lynn Donches expressed her concern for the district's liability should waste removal be carried out without an investigation from the "proper authorities." Donches would not support the motion to accept proposals from ALM and TCI, indicating the right thing to do would be to investigate who was responsible for the waste's appearance there in the first place.
Other board members, including Ziad Munson and Alan Earnshaw, were not in favor of prolonging the debate or initiating an investigation. Board Director Wally Vinovskis expressed his approval of Schilder's decisions in contacting the appropriate authorities and initiating an expeditious removal.
Schilder said the police had not been contacted and his primary goal was to have the waste removed. He believes it was a mistake, with no indication of criminal intent.
In other business, Schilder addressed the transportation issues causing head- aches throughout the district for several weeks.
"Obviously it was a rough opening week," Schilder said, "and it was an unsatisfactory opening week in terms of standards that we've established what STA [Student Transporation of America, Inc.] expects, what the school board expects and what I expect. The problems have improved, many of them [have been] resolved going into the second week but we're still not there yet."
Some buses are still arriving late at schools, particularly Shoemaker Elementary, or are arriving early at stops. In these cases the drivers are following a pick up time different from what parents are following. The district is working with STA to shorten unduly long routes, some of which for parochial schools are running in excess of 90 minutes.
Schilder is also reviewing sample policies and procedures regarding a clearer communication with the public about what can and cannot be done with transportation. His intent is to make recommendations to the board soon.
Schilder continued to express his confidence in STA and, while admitting it was at times a tense relationship between the district and the transportation company, affirmed it was a "good relationship in terms of problem-solving."
Vice president of STA, Timothy Krise, made a statement to the board summarizing the transportation problems and emphasizing the measures being taken to address them. Additional staff has been hired and additional phone lines installed, the latter to meet the overwhelming influx of phone calls from parents regarding bus routes and stops. Krise reported some stops have been changed up to five times.
The routes were not built from scratch, reported Kelly Wood, special projects director and chief router for STA. She apologized to the board for not following her usual procedure and creating a route system from the ground up. Instead she relied on information garnered from last year and the timing was off.
Wood also noted the increase in the number of buses up to 124 from last year's 121; Krise informed The Press bus loads had increased as well, from 72 to 77. Additions to the routing system include a new pre-K program, an IU program previously bused by the IU itself and a parochial school outside the district's boundaries.
Among other personnel appointments the board approved the appointment of Jeremy Silimperi to the position of supervisor of special education (elementary), upon the resignation of Jennifer Curtis. According to the board agenda Silimperi was previously coordinator of special education for Colonial Intermediate IU since 2011.
Also noted on the agenda was a discussion to increase the number of school buses. Schilder reported there was no recommendation for an increase at this time.