The Phoenix Reporter and Item (http://www.phoenixvillenews.com)

Phoenixville, Spring-Ford boards approve library cafe funding


By Frank Otto, fotto@21st-CenturyMedia.com

Monday, March 3, 2014

PHOENIXVILLE — With one high school looking to expand its library cafe, another one nearby just received the go-ahead to work on plans for one of its own.

Students supporting Phoenixville Area High School’s Purple Perk recently raised $7,500 to begin renovating their library cafe and, Monday, the Spring-Ford Area School Board unanimously approved “mov(ing) forward” with what Superintendent David Goodin described as an “internet cafe” on the second floor of their media center.

The latter project is not to exceed $20,000, funded through the district’s capital reserve account.

PHOENIXVILLE’S PURPLE PERK

In Phoenixville, the Purple Perk has recently been the subject of much discussion between the high school’s students and the school board.

“I’m happy to say you’d all be very impressed with how organized a committee they are, the work they’ve done, and how seriously they take this,” said board member and finance committee chairman David Ziev, who acted as a sort of board advisor to the students.

At the end of last month, the school board discussed the Purple Perk’s potential renovation and asked students to come up with a potential funding plan.

Just a month later, Ziev reported that the students raised the $7,500 themselves.

“I think this is a great idea, what a learning experience,” board member Paul Slaninka said. “I really think it’s a point of pride for these young students on a life experience.”

Ziev described the students behind the Purple Perk as “focused” multiple times.

Self-funded, the Purple Perk creates a scholarship fund which is awarded to a student looking to go to college in the library sciences. It’s headed up by the school’s library club, advised by librarian Sue Krenicky.

Ziev said the Purple Perk students are “beginning to engage the entire (high) school” by reaching out to various clubs for potential work or design on the project.

“They’re expanding this with more and more resources throughout the school,” Ziev said.

That effort to reach out goes beyond the high school, Ziev said, as they’ve also consulted the current middle school students as well.

The school board voted unanimously, 6-0, last week with Irfan Khan, Kenneth Butera and Jan Potts absent, to approve moving forward on Phase I of the project.

Originally carrying a price tag of $40,000, Ziev said the students have scaled back some of their plans for the expansion and have also broken it down into phases.

The $7,500 raised is the price tag for Phase I, which consists of constructing the coffee bar and electric work, which Ziev called “their core.”

At the January meeting when the Purple Perk was discussed, the potential for the school district to match the students’ fund-raising efforts was raised. That idea came up again last week.

Slaninka felt giving the money to the students might detract from the financial learning experience.

“I think then we take part ownership. I think the students, from what (Ziev) suggests and recommends ... the students, they want ownership on this. they want to do this, they want to direct it,” Slaninka said. “We start fiddling, giving them money, it takes away from their ownership, it takes away from their ownership, I think, in my humble opinion.”

“They’ve raised $7,500. I think we should match it,” said board member Kevin Pattinson. “That won’t take away from any of the learning experience ... this is something that means a great deal to our student body.

Ultimately, the board made no motion on matching it and decided, in Ziev’s words, to “revisit that in the fall and come back, see what they did over the summer.”

“I think they’re going to give it a go,” Ziev said of the students. “I think they’re going to do it.”

The later stages of the Purple Perk include an outdoor patio in Phase II and adding more furniture in Phase III, Ziev said. Because of the scaling down of the project, an estimate on what those other phases might cost wasn’t immediately available.

Students hope to finish Phase I before graduation this year and are targeting the beginning of next school year to begin Phase II.

“They’re ready to go. They’ve got funds for Phase I,” Ziev said. “They’ve got great plans to do the rest.”

SPRING-FORD CAFE

Pat Nugent, Spring-Ford Senior High’s principal, said talks about a possible cafe in their library, now called a media center, have been ongoing since at least November.

Goodin said the board’s approval Monday is the go-ahead to lay down some more serious plans.

“The idea originally generated by Chad Brubaker, who is our media specialist,” Nugent said. “He used to be the media specialist at Wilson High School. He said, ‘Hey, at Wilson, we had this cafe.’”

Nugent said Brubaker and Barbara O’Brien, another media specialist at the high school, brought the idea forward.

Student unions at colleges served as some inspiration for the cafe plans, according to Nugent, who cited Montgomery County Community College’s new facility.

“Everybody’s on their devices and working or researching,” he said. “We wanted to create that kind of atmosphere in the media center.”

New policies allowing for students to bring their own computers and other technology into the school and connect to Wi-Fi “jibe together” with the cafe, Nugent said.

The original plan for the cafe was for it to be staffed by a new part-time worker hired through the cafeteria, Goodin said Monday night, but there is potential for vending machines offering healthier snacks and coffee.

“We’re going to take the whole upstairs (of the library) and make it an internet cafe,” Goodin said. “It’s going to be a dedicated space.”

Still, plans remain in their early stages.

“We’re still kicking it around,” Goodin said. “We just had a meeting last week and there’s still a lot of logistics we’re trying to iron out.”

Whatever happens with the cafe, though, Goodin said he wants it to be self-funded, like the Purple Perk.

Check out Twitter recaps of the last Spring-Ford and Phoenixville school board meetings.

Follow Frank Otto on Twitter @fottojourno.