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York City school board mulls purchases

Jessica Schladebeck
505-5438/@JessDispatch

The York City school board is considering purchasing materials to support its recently rewritten English and Language Arts curriculum as well as a list of suggested building maintenance projects.

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The York City School District, as a part of its recovery plan, has been working for the past year or so to revamp its English and Language Arts curriculum and align it with state standards. Interim Assistant Superintendent Michael Thew told the board during a meeting on Monday that after months of reviewing the curriculum and potential resources with a committee which included district teachers, the group selected one of four potential vendors to supply the district with classroom supplies best suited to support the new curriculum for students in grades K-6.

"This meets everything we've worked on for the past year," Thew said of Benchmark Education’s Advanced Benchmark Literacy program. "What I like about it is it’s teacher-driven, teacher-chosen, and I think the buy in is there."

The program, he said, will be able to reach all students in grades K-6, including special education students and English Language Learners. Benchmark's program will include a variety of materials, including digital resources, and will allow for writing — which will include handwriting classes — activities to occur daily within York City classrooms.

The overall cost is $967,235, Thew said, adding Benchmark had agreed to a four-year payment plan. Benchmark is also offering a free day of training for every $50,000 spent — which will give York City a total of 20 training days for its staff — as well as free teachers' manuals.

York City business manager Richard Snodgrass told the board the purchasing of the Benchmark programming was possible in spite of the state budget impasse.

Building upkeep: Snodgrass also during the meeting proposed a list of repairs to take place over the summer months as well as several other maintenance purchases, altogether totaling about $800,000. He said the district has been forced to put off many repairs because of past financial issues.

On the top of the list is a two-part project to remove carpet in classrooms at both Goode and Devers K-8 schools. It's difficult to maintain the desired level of cleanliness with the carpeting, so the district is looking to replace it with tile, Snodgrass said.

There are some areas that will require asbestos removal before the carpet is replaced, he said, and the project overall will cost around $300,000.

Another proposed project is roof repair at both Goode and Devers, Snodgrass said. Areas requiring patchwork were identified by an infrared study, which pinpointed locations where water had seeped beneath the roofing, he said, noting these repair efforts would go toward extending the roofs' life. He recommended the board take bids for the project.

Snodgrass also outlined the details of creating a secure entrance at Devers, which would cost approximately $100,000. The current entrance to the building has visitors traveling through an unsecured hallway to get to the office, and the upgrade would instead send building guests directly into a secure office area.

Snodgrass also recommended the board consider replacing lawn mowers, maintenance vehicles and the HVAC system at Goode.

The funds for the proposed repairs and purchases would come from a project account that currently boasts $1.7 million. Snodgrass said the cost of the repairs wasn't so high that it would wipe out the entire account, leaving a cushion of funds for any unforeseeable repairs that may be needed down the road.

"The bottom line is, we can’t educate kids if we don’t maintain facilities; we need these things,” Snodgrass said. "In many ways we've deferred maintenance projects, but none of these projects are in any way extravagant."

The board is scheduled to consider both proposals during their next meeting, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 16 at the district's administration building.

— Reach Jessica Schladebeck at jschladebeck@yorkdispatch.com.