For the past year and a half, the Phoenixville Area School District has been involved in zoning hearings to obtain variances needed to remodel and expand the East Pikeland Elementary School. On Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, the East Pikeland Zoning Hearing Board denied all relief sought by the district, according to a press release issued by the school district.
The district sees the decision as a major setback in its effort to provide a quality educational facility for the elementary students of East Pikeland School. As a result of opposition to the building project, expensive and protracted legal fees, architectural fees, and development fees have been incurred. On this project, more than $590,000 of taxpayer money has been spent in the predevelopment fees, legal costs and geotechnical and environmental work, and the planning process in general. In addition, more than $900,000 has been spent in architectural work.
The process up to this point has been multi-faceted. Approvals were granted by the East Pikeland Planning Commission and Environmental Advisory Council, and the district was asked to move forward with the development process, which included the aforementioned fees and expenses. Conditional approval had also been granted by the East Pikeland Board of Supervisors. Multiple requests for changes and redesigns to the plans were accommodated by the district, under the understanding there would be eventual agreement and approval of the request, according to the district’s press release.
The district now needs to carefully consider its next steps. Possibilities include: further litigation to pursue the proposed development on land it owns and on which it has operated a school for over 80 years; renovation of the existing building in an attempt to bring it to minimal standards; adding classroom trailers at the existing school to meet the growing student population; or finding another location to build a school. All of these options mean additional time and considerable expense for the District and taxpayers in Schuylkill Township, the Borough of Phoenixville, as well as East Pikeland Township.
The school district continues to encourage all members of the community to be involved in this process. Given the reality that enrollment is growing, both short-term and long-term solutions must be found. Two of the schools – East Pikeland Elementary School and the Kindergarten Center - are in great need of renovation or replacement. The board of school directors will continue to keep the citizens of the Phoenixville Area School District fully informed of all decisions relating to these important educational decisions that will impact the generations of children and their families.