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York City schools criticized for nixing educational pairing to Codorus project

A public presentation on the Codorus Creek Beautification Initiative at Penn Market in York City, Thursday, April 25, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

A proposed educational enrichment program tied to the 100-year planned Codorus Creek project was shot down by York City school board members June 24 amid budget concerns.

The board voted 8-1 to accept Superintendent Andrea Berry’s recommendation to not go forward with the program, after giving the program conditional approval in May provided there were no costs.

Board member Carman Bryant opposed the resolution to scuttle the project. When reached Monday, Bryant declined to comment, referring a reporter to the district's spokesperson.

Berry said there were costs that the district had been unaware of and the decision was rushed before the budget passage on June 24. She did not want to add to a budget that already included dozens of staffing cuts.

More:'Wouldn’t wish on anybody': York City school board makes deep cuts

The proposed Codorus Corridor Summer Enrichment Program, presented in May by Eric Kirkland, a member of the redevelopment committee of the city’s general authority, would have been a partnership encompassing the school district, engineers at Buchart Horn and York City.

The six-week, 120-hour program would have combined an 80% virtual curriculum with hands-on learning at the creek, with the goal of exposing students to different careers on the site of an ongoing development project.

It would have allowed students to work on the Codorus Creek beautification project, which aims to create a pedestrian-friendly walkway along the 1.4-mile stretch of the creek in York City.

More:'Lofty but tangible': Public weighs in on Codorus Creek renovation

Berry and several board members agreed they would be open to looking at the proposal in the future.

“I am not opposed with them coming with a proposal and having it thought out and more detailed in terms of the funding stream and how the program will be handled overall,” said board member Michael Breeland last Wednesday.

Board member Margie Orr added, “I’m not opposed to the program itself, I’m just opposed to how it was presented to us.” 

An area adjacent to the Codorus Creek between Philadelphia and Market streets is proposed for improvements according to the York County Economic Alliance Friday, Jan. 25, 2019. A public informational session will be held Tuesday, Jan, 29, at Buchart Horn, 445 W. Philadelphia Street, from 4-6 p.m. Bill Kalina photo

Jeff Kirkland, who was involved with the enrichment program, took to social media after the vote to nix the program, criticizing the priorities of the board.

“This is an issue immensely more important to our children than the choosing of an athletic coach,” he said in a Facebook post following the June 24 vote.

He was referring to a multi-hour public comment period during the June 24 meeting almost exclusively devoted to saving the district’s head football coach, Russ Stoner.

More:Russ Stoner remains York High's head football coach after raucous, marathon school board meeting

His arguments were that the program was budget-neutral, paid students a $1,200 stipend and offered them the opportunity to become involved in areas such as planning, engineering, architecture and environmentalism.

The May proposal noted that there is a lack of minority representation in architecture and engineering, so it was meant in particular to help those students.

But Berry noted the program felt rushed and she didn’t want to be pressured into it this summer. Since the Codorus project will be ongoing, there will be opportunities to partner in later summers, she said.

“From inception to implementation of this project, the turnaround time was really short,” she said.

The Codorus project, which has been 100 years in the making, got started in 2017, and is still gathering public and private funding, said Kevin Schreiber, president and CEO of project partner York County Economic Alliance.

York County Economic Alliance CEO and President Kevin Schreiber introduces Danielle Stehman, of Buchart Horn, during a public presentation on the Codorus Creek Beautification Initiative at Penn Market in York City, Thursday, April 25, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Physical work is not due to begin until at least 2021-22, Schreiber said.

At any given point in time during the project's life, there will be ample opportunities to run educational programming with respect to the Codorus, he said.

At the school board’s June 8 committee meeting, Berry also told the board that the educational program wasn’t as cost-free as it seemed.

“We have since learned that the district would have to take a more active role in that process in writing the grant, serving as the fiscal agent, providing staffing and possibly being responsible for monetary portions of the staffing," she noted.

Eric Kirkland could not be reached for comment after multiple attempts.

"I am saddened because the City District refused this program and it will now be offered to other districts or charter schools," Jeff Kirkland wrote in his post. "Please ask your School Board members Why they would reject a much need program such as this."