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UPSD Board Delays Start of School
Written by Bradley Schlegel, Staff Writer


            The professionals responsible for the construction of a new middle school in Upper Hanover and the conversion of the former middle school in East Greenville reported to the Upper Perkiomen School Board last week that both projects should be ready for the start of the new school year. However, Superintendent Allyn Roche argued that the district needed a few extra days to prepare.

            The members agreed, voting unanimously to push back the start by two days for all students to Sept. 5. Roche repeatedly described the postponement, during the Aug. 22 workshop meeting, as the best way to set up the district, its teachers and students for success.

            Vice President Mike Elliot called it a difficult decision but the right way to start the school year. Member Melanie Cunningham described the delay as a good idea.

            The two-day delay will not affect graduation (which remains scheduled for June 12, 2020), the end of the year or Spring Break, according to the superintendent. The district will start the school year with two snow emergency days as originally planned. Sept. 3 and 4 will serve as in-service days for teachers. Western Center students will continue to be bused from the high school on Sept. 3 and 4.

            "Please know that this decision was not made lightly, and we understand that the impact of this last minute change will be far reaching for our faculty, staff, students, families and the Upper Perkiomen community as a whole," the superintendent wrote in a statement posted on the district's website.

            An open house at the new school for sixth, seventh and eighth graders on Montgomery Avenue and the 4th and 5th Grade Center on Jefferson Street will be held from 4:30 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 4. Students and families will be able to drop in at any time during that period to see the buildings, according to Nikki Gum, the district's Communication Specialist. She wrote in an Aug. 26 email message that there are no plans to have a formal program of any kind.

            "This is simply an opportunity for them to see the school they'll be entering the following morning," Gum wrote.

            According to Roche, the additional days were necessary to properly clean and prepare the classrooms and work stations with technology, telephones and supplies at both facilities. After the meeting, he said the district's administrative team decided the delay was necessary after walking both buildings following an Aug. 20 construction meeting.

            "We decided that we needed a little more time to set up the middle school for success," Roche said.

            Prior to the vote, construction professionals addressed the members regarding both projects. Jim Mazeika, from Barry Isett & Associates, said the middle school's offsite sidewalk project is progressing very nicely. Mazeika stated that the work on the north/west side of Montgomery Avenue has been completed from 6th Street to near 8th Street. He added that the work on the other side of the street would be finished by Aug. 30. Inclement weather and issues with a water line under Montgomery Avenue delayed the project, according to Mazeika.

            Zach Zazzo, a project manager with D'Huy Engineering, Inc., the Bethlehem engineering consulting firm hired to oversee the construction of the new middle school, told the members that the substantial completion date was Aug. 26. Zazzo expected the school to receive a temporary certificate of occupation the following day, which it did.

            On Tuesday, LTL Consultants Ltd. – the township's building inspector – issued the temporary conditional certificate of occupancy, according to John Weber, the township's engineer and an employee of the company based in Oley. Weber indicated that the purpose of the certificate was to allow the teachers to access the building for their in-service.

            Weber said, on Wednesday morning, that district officials will be required to complete a list of items before students will be permitted inside. Weber declined to provide any specifics.

            M. Arif Fazil, from D'Huy, lauded Zazzo's efforts and praised the board's contributions. Fazil also gave kudos to Douglas Kenwood, the district's facilities director, Business Administrator Sandra Kassel and Cunningham, chair of the board's Facilities Committee, who attended all 48 construction meetings.

            "It was a challenging project," Fazil said. "It will be long remembered by me. When I walk inside the building, I get the shivers."

            Bob Navitski from Fidevia, a Lititz construction management and consulting company overseeing the school conversion, informed the members that district employees had begun moving furniture and supplies into the classroom areas.





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