The Northampton Area School District held a special public meeting on Thursday, April 4 regarding the district’s elementary configuration and specifically, on whether or not to keep Moore Elementary School open as a fifth elementary school in the district. 

The meeting was strictly meant to provide residents with information about the financial impact for district residents, as well as the personnel impact, redistricting of students, and transportation impact that keeping Moore Elementary open would create.

To clarify, Moore Elementary is being considered the fifth elementary school in the district due to the school board’s previous majority vote decision during the Sept. 12, 2022 meeting to build a new elementary school and administration center on the district’s Route 329 property and close Franklin Elementary, Moore Elementary, the Washington technology building and the current administration building, but to keep Moore Elementary open for sections of the building to be used by the community and district. At that time, Directors Kim Bretzik, Doug Vaughn and Robert Mentzell voted not to close Moore Elementary.

Later, during the Aug. 14, 2023 school board meeting, the board took an informal straw poll vote in which all board members unanimously voted to keep Moore Elementary open and for the district to have five elementary schools. 

However, since then, no formal vote regarding the future of Moore Elementary has been made other than to set aside $2 million of the district’s general fund/assigned fund balance to be designated as committed fund balance for future Moore Elementary potential renovations, which would offset the potential millage impact based on how the board decides to move forward. 

This caused many residents to question when the board would formally vote on whether to keep Moore Elementary open or continue with its closing per the original majority decision. 

As it stands, Moore Elementary is in need of dire repairs and renovations to the facility. The capital improvements needed include the mechanical system such as the cooling and heating plants, automatic temperature control system and classroom, gymnasium, administration and library heating/ventilation/air conditioning, as well as the interior and exterior lighting system, communication system and safety/security systems. Other necessary improvements include the plumbing system such as the water service system, piping system, plumbing fixtures and fire protection system, as well as the roof system, interior finishes, site items, building envelope items and a playground replacement.

Per the financial portion of the presentation, Moore Elementary’s options for a partial replacement would cost approximately $25,262,021, whereas a full renovation would cost upwards of $51,414,018, with both options amassing $3,224,495 in operating expenses.

Moreover, Business Administrator Craig Neiman presented that a partial renovation of Moore Elementary would create an estimated millage impact of 4.83 mills or an 8.67% increase over the current millage rate, whereas a full renovation would create an estimated millage impact of 5.92 mills or a 10.63% increase over the current millage rate. 

The average assessed homestead in the district is valued at $63,000, with those homeowners paying $3,510 in school property taxes. Therefore, the annual cost to the average assessed homestead for a partial renovation of Moore Elementary would increase by $304.29, whereas with a full renovation, residents would see a $372.96 increase in their school property taxes, which would require a multi-year tax strategy to support the required millage impact.

Residents had many questions, comments and concerns for the district including future enrollment rates declining, housing developments being built throughout the district, the lengthy bus ride students will endure from Moore Elementary’s closure, class sizes, where students will be provided instruction during renovations and the increase in costs to renovate Moore Elementary throughout the various presentations on the Route 329 project.

Many residents also spoke out against the building of the Route 329 elementary school and education center project that is currently underway, expressing they have felt manipulated by previous and current school board members.

When asked about his opinion on the future of Moore Elementary, Superintendent Joseph Kovalchik expressed that he believes current elementary schools are too packed, so he would love to keep Moore Elementary open to allow for smaller class sizes without cutting staff and resources. Kovalchik added that he believes the district will need five elementary schools in the future and that the school board must make the best decision with the information they have that is in the best interest of the district.

Residents were informed that the school board will discuss and vote on the proposed budget for the following school year in May and will vote on the adoption of the budget at the June meeting, which is when the board would need to make their formal choice regarding the future of Moore Elementary.


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