Split UCFSD board to vote on Rt. 82 project Monday night

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By JP Phillips, Staff Writer, The Times

A rendering of some of the proposed improvements for Route 82 in front of Charles F. Patton Middle School.

EAST MARLBOROUGH — Not all Unionville-Chadds Ford School District Board Members are sold on the school district’s/Township’s proposal to slow traffic and enhance pedestrian safety on Route 82. Although the proposal was presented to the Board last month with little comment, several board members raised doubts and requests for additional information at last night’s Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board work session in preparation for the September 18th vote.

During last month’s work session on Aug. 14, East Marlborough Township presented a Route 82 plan to add median islands, sidewalks and flashing crossing lights in front of both the Middle and High Schools. With the federal grant deadline looming, the township will submit the application if the School Board agrees to split the $180,000 design cost.

Rick Hostetler, UCFSD’s Supervisor of Buildings and Grounds, said the township is also contacting the Longwood Foundation to see if they are willing to cost-share. If the grant is approved, the federal government would pay the $1 million-plus construction cost. Should the grant not be approved, no improvements will be made at this time and cost to the District would be nominal (not more than $5,000 for mostly research). Approval occurs in 2018, and construction would begin in 2020.

Undecided Board member Robert Sage, who was absent from last month’s meeting when the plan was introduced, wanted to ensure that “as we are enhancing safety, we are not doing things to create additional congestion,” which may create unsafe conditions. He shared his daily commute down Route 52 in Delaware where the Centerville median islands and stop-lights created traffic that was not there before. He said he is worried that there may be less space in the turning lanes, exacerbating an already slow commute during school hours.

Board President Vic Dupuis responded that due in part to speeding traffic, a student was killed 19 years ago trying to cross Rt. 82. He approached PennDOT at the time regarding the 45 mile-per-hour speed limit, and was told that due to few cross-streets, a lower speed limit is not likely.

“A design of this ilk is really the only and the best chance to get the speed limit in front of our schools reduced,” Dupuis said.

Hostetler added that between turning and through lanes, the stretch between the Middle and High School is a five-lane highway. “It really becomes a racetrack,” he declared.

Thirteen-year-old Patton student Brianne Carter was killed in 1998 trying to cross Route 82. The tragedy occurred during a soccer game filled with players and spectators at the Middle School field.

Board Member Elise Anderson requested a traffic report to better analyze the need. Board Member Steve Simonson was concerned with the need and the design costs, stating that the board was being asked to decide with limited information. He compared it to “buying something on sale without knowing if we really need it or not.” He questioned why it wasn’t the township’s or state’s responsibility to fund this on their own.

Hostetler responded that more studies analyzing the need will be done in the first phase should the grant be approved. The problem is the grant Sept. 22 application deadline. He also explained that it is common for the district to partner with local government to ensure safety by school properties. For example, the district shared in the design and cost for the entrance/exit lanes to the high school in 1994. More recently, the district contributed to the cost of the traffic light on Route 926.

Board Member Carolyn Daniels wanted to ensure that, if the grant is approved, the school district would be an active partner in the final design. Hostetler affirmed that it would. She added that the speeding on Route 82 is “terrifying,” and the concept is “a great idea.”

Superintendent John Sanville focused on the need for pedestrian safety.

“Really, the issue becomes in the later evenings, after sporting events, after activities with kids going to and fro, community members are going back and forth,” Sanville said. “If you are ever around during the weekends when we have our facilities being used, when people wind up parking in the neighborhoods across the street–there’s a lot of walking back and forth. I think the need is growing instead of dissipating.”

He acknowledged the potential for additional congestion, but “it’s a point you have to weigh in terms traffic versus community members and kids going back and forth. It’s the right thing to do.”

After the meeting, board member Jeff Hellrung expressed his support for the project. “Paying $90,000 for a $1.2 million project is a bargain.”

The vote will take place during the Sept. 18 board meeting. Links to meeting details, Route 82 documents, and board member contact information is included at the end of this article.

Monday night’s work session also included an animated discussion regarding an administration proposal to require high school seniors to be residents of the District during the entire school year. Currently, a Unionville senior’s family can move out of the district after the first three days of school and still finish here tuition-free. The proposal would allow the student to complete the year, but with a pro-rated tuition. It was agreed that the board would investigate neighboring school districts’ attendance policies and revisit the issue next month.

In other news, Dave Listman in the District’s Communications and Stakeholder Integration group presented community outreach efforts integrating media of all types. In two weeks, a mailer to residents will discuss the district’s wellness efforts. It will introduce a video featuring students Sachi Patel and Matt Daniels who influenced the district’s ultimate decision to move back school start times. Future ideas include podcasts introducing various administrative departments to our residents. The goal is to improve relations by drawing a deeper connection and understanding between school and community.

Special Education Director Leah Reider invited the community to the UPRISE (Unionville- Parent Resources & Information for Special Education) meeting this Wednesday 6-7:30 PM at the District office (room 14). This presentation and discussion will focus on understanding the special education process.

Director of Technology Justin Webb informed that the District won a $3,500 grant for MiFi devices. Ten devices will be available for check-out through the High School Library this year. MiFi devices provide internet connections via 3G or 4G. This could be useful to students who do not have internet access.

Director of Business and Operations Bob Cochran reported that tax collections are running ahead of prior years, with 86% of the revenue already in the bank.

Board Member Gregg Lindner gave a special shout-out to Hostetler and his team for completing a wide array of improvements and maintenance items. Besides the High School auditorium and Middle School roofs, his group tackled an extensive list of projects budgeted at $3.3 million on time and $35,000 under budget.

Next up: School Board Meeting on Monday, September 18th at 7:30 in Room 14 at the District Office, adjacent to the High School. All board meetings are open to the public. They are broadcasted live on the UCFSD web site.

Board Member Contact Information: http://www.ucfsd.org/board/index.html

Board documents related to the Route 82 proposal: http://www.boarddocs.com/pa/uncf/Board.nsf/public

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