The East Penn Board of School Directors observed a moment of silence at the start of its regular meeting Nov. 12 for former board member Carol Allen who died at home Oct. 2 at age 68. Allen had resigned her seat Sept. 4.
Superintendent Kristen Campbell brought the board up to speed on progress made with the ongoing cleanup and remediation of flood damage from the Nov. 2 storm at Emmaus High School. The high school was closed to students Nov. 5 through 9, with a three-hour delay Nov. 12.
Campbell said the district will be requesting an attendance waiver from the Pennsylvania Department of Education for Nov. 5, 6 and 7 for the school emergency closings. Secondary students will still have to receive a minimum of 990 hours of instruction to meet the state requirement, she said.
The superintendent praised the quick and thorough response to the emergency by the facilities staff. Campbell also commended the leadership of EHS Principal Dr. Kate Kieres and her staff for also effectively dealing with the situation. She described the outpouring of community support for the school during the emergency situation as “amazing,” with offers of help and “tremendous donations.”
Facilities Director Steve Onushco provided the directors with a timetable of the flooding that took place at the high school that Friday evening.
“At 10:25 p.m. the storm drains at the front of the high school, by the main office, were actually taking the water away properly,” Onushco said. “By 10:29 [p.m.], the storm drains were unable to accept the volume of water that was entering our facility from the basin on Macungie Ave.”
According to Onushco, at 10:31 p.m. a neighbor unsuccessfully tried to clear the clogged street drain with his car. By 10:34 p.m., six inches of water was at the door. Within mere minutes, the water began infiltrating the exterior doors. At 10:38 p.m., two custodians attempted to open the drains but were unsuccessful and went back inside.
Onushco recalled receiving the call, “Steve we have a leak,” at 10:41 p.m. “By 10:53 [p.m.], the water reached the height of four feet at the front doors,” the facilities director said. Six minutes later one of the doors broke free and, “approximately 500,000 gallons of water started flowing through our building.” The crew opened the doors on the opposite side of the school to allow the stormwater to flow out of the building. RestoreCore was called in and began the remediation process shortly after midnight and were soon joined by Hillman Consulting.
Custodian Shawn Roberts was credited with noticing the water building up at the front door of the school and raising the alarm.
Andrew Goldberg, president of RestoreCore described the restoration process of the flood-impacted areas which began by quickly getting all of the water out of the building.
“The quick action of the staff here made all the difference in the world,” Goldberg said.
The contractors have been extracting carpeting, drywall and other materials with porous surfaces. The gym floor was too damaged to be saved and was removed. Crews placed utility fans, industrial dehumidifiers and drying systems throughout the school’s lower level. Goldberg said an electronics firm is working on restoring equipment and a company specializing in drying out and scanning important documents has been called in.
Filters throughout the affected classroom HVAC system are being replaced while the units are being serviced.
Senior Industrial Hygienist Barry Sasse from Hillman Consulting explained his role in overseeing environmental concerns and advising on how to prevent potential mold problems.
In other business, Kieres presented the board with an outline of the EHS Program of Studies for the 2019-2020 school year. According to Kieres, most changes were minor and involve realigning algebra and science courses and an addition of digital media to the art program.
Assistant Superintendent Doug Povilaitis provided an overview of Future Ready PA Index to school directors. According to Povilaitis, the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s new online monitoring tool is slated to “be pushed out at the end of this month.” He said it replaces the School Performance Profile as the public face providing a more comprehensive way to track student proficiency and growth. He walked the board through the new program with a slide show of what the web pages look like and how they function.
The district’s comprehensive plan for July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2022 was approved by the school directors unanimously.
A request to address the board was granted to Emmaus resident and president of the Green Hornet Touchdown Club, Brent Reed. He encouraged the board to expedite the installation of the turf field at the stadium.
Video recording of board meetings and posting the videos online, proposed by Director Ziad Munson, passed by a vote of 8 to 1 with Director Charles Ballard as the only “nay“ vote. Ballard cited the $6,000 setup cost as unnecessary. He quipped that he will be watching YouTube “to see how many hits we get.” Ballard remarked, “One guy looking at the video 100 times, John, is not going to cut it.”
This drew the ire of Emmaus resident John Donches who approached the podium despite the time for addressing the board had already passed. He interrupted the proceedings with, “When somebody calls somebody out of the audience, like that!” and began making speeches supporting the videotaping vote until ordered back to his seat in the audience. Donches had videotaped board meetings and posted them online in the past.
Ballard also objected to a motion authorizing the treasurer to issue interim checks and vouchers during any month in which a second board meeting is not held or scheduled to be held on the fourth Monday of the month as bad policy.
Business administrator Robert Saul said the intent is to pay vendors within 30 days as per their invoices. He said when there is only one board meeting in a given month, payment gets delayed.
After much discussion, it was decided Policy 616 on bill payments covered most circumstances adequately, but should be reviewed for clarity. Ballard’s motion to allow the board to hold special meetings for addressing payment on contracts or purchase orders not previously board approved for November and December, passed 6 to 3 with Directors Paul Champagne, Ballard, Alisa Bowman, Adam Smith and Seth Flanders voting “yes.” Voting “no” were Ken Bacher, Munson and Allan Byrd.
To accommodate the urgency surrounding the recovery from the flood damage to the high school the board approved a motion to temporarily grant the superintendent authority to accept gifts and donations valued over $1,000 that directly contribute to resuming normal operations at EHS. With an expiration date of Dec. 31, 2018, the vote was unanimous.
Student Government Association representative Sajan Patel drew applause when he reported the varsity football team won the district semifinal game against Easton Nov. 10. Patel expressed appreciation to those who are working to clean up the recent flood damage and for those who made donations to the school to help it recover.
SGA representative Sydney Souliere reported on upcoming school concerts and the student’s wish project for the current school year which involved placing a recycling bin and installing a water bottle refilling station in the cafeteria. She said they were well received.
On personnel matters, the directors approved the hiring of Jonathan Shirvinski as an eighth grade science teacher for Lower Macungie Middle School.
There was an executive session held prior to the public meeting 6:30 p.m. on employment, security, personnel and negotiations according to Bacher.
Bacher announced a reorganization meeting will be held 7:30 p.m. Dec. 3 and a regular board meeting will be held 7:30 p.m. Dec. 10.
He also mentioned all district schools and offices will be closed Nov. 22, 23 and 26 for the Thanksgiving holiday.