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New Digital Sign Proposed for Upper Perk High School
Written by Kelly Chandler, Staff Writer

Sign could feature advertising, generate monies for sports programs

        The grounds of Upper Perkiomen High School may soon be home to a flashy new digital sign, but its proponents first have to traverse their way through borough laws that prohibit it.

        The Upper Perk Sports Boosters Club is proposing to donate the sign to replace a 1996 changeable copy sign at the entrance to the school at 2 Walt Road in Red Hill Borough.  That sign, said boosters’ Vice President Brenda Diehl, is in poor condition.  Its letters fall off in bad weather and are tampered with, offering a less-than-desirable first impression of the school, she said.

        Plus, National Honor Society students, who are in charge of the sign, have to change it manually in all kinds of weather.  And the biggest drawback, Diehl said, is that only one event or message can be viewed at a time.

        At Monday’s Upper Perkiomen School Board meeting, Diehl spoke about the new sign, which would be designed and built by Reed Sign Company of Pennsburg.  The sign’s estimated cost is approximately $36,400, and some of the materials and labor would be donated, she said.

        A new, modern digital sign could display more than one message or event at a time for all school groups, improving attendance at activities at the location.  It could also provide revenue through advertising, which could partner area businesses with sports or other events.

        The color messages could also be changed from a central location inside the building through a laptop, Diehl said.

        The sign would comprise 11-foot brick columns with an aluminum “monument-style” sign displaying the high school’s name and logo.  The LED sign would be mounted underneath.

        But getting the sign approved by Red Hill Borough could be another story.  The sign, as designed, violates the borough’s ordinances for total sign area and height, and because it would be illuminated in a residential zoning district.

        The boosters said they anticipate an initial permit application request for the sign would be denied and they would incur about $700 in fees to request a variance. 

        “The Upper Perk Sports Boosters are committed to raising the money to pay these costs,” Diehl said.  “This is what we want to do, but the borough could very well squash it.”

        School officials said there are still many questions that need to be answered about the sign that involve the district’s policy against advertising on school grounds, how donations for advertising would be property of the school district once the sign is dedicated to the school, and putting the project out to bid and paying prevailing wage, as the district would be required to do.

        “I think it’s a great way to get revenue, but I would imagine there would be some businesses you wouldn’t want up there,” said new School Board Director Wilfred Pike III, who was sworn in at the start of the meeting with new members Kerry Drake and Jonathan Warren, along with John Gehman.  “To say these people are allowed, these aren’t…It could be trouble.”

        The board moved, unanimously, to support the boosters club in its efforts to fill out a sign permit application with the help of district administrators in order to move forward with the project.

        In other news, the board reorganized with current President Bill Scott retaining his position and Raeann Hofkin voted in as vice president.  The board agreed to discuss committee positions at the January meeting in order for the new members to learn more about an open position on the joint operating committee for the Western Montgomery Career and Technical Center, which Scott said he would like to vacate after 10 years because of time constraints.

Members of the public continued their efforts to find out what can be done to reduce class sizes at Marlborough Elementary, especially in fourth grade.

        Katie Taylor-Moran, who spoke at last month’s meeting, noted that another student was added this week, bringing each of the three fourth-grade classes to 30 students.  Taylor-Moran cited improved behavior, test scores, fewer high school dropouts and more accurate identification of learning disabilities as reasons to actively pursue smaller classes at the school.

        Parent Tracy Sinker, of Upper Hanover, echoed her concerns.

        “My son is 9 years old.  Nine is young to be in with 30 kids and for the teacher to try to get around to help students…Those students – it’s a disservice to them.  They can’t get up and run around; they’re at their desks,” she said.

        “It’s something we have to look at.  It has to be a part of the budget process in January,” said Scott, noting a long-term substitute or additional staff would have to be funded.  “We are all aware of it and will address it.”

        In other news, Paul Sherwood of East Greenville and Debbie Weeks of Upper Hanover voiced their concern over administrative costs, with Sherwood voicing his displeasure with former Superintendent Timothy Kirby’s contract and retirement benefits and Weeks saying she thinks the financial hardships of the district should be spread throughout the “ages and stages.”

        Scott said the board recently negotiated a teachers’ contract but had an Act 93 (administrators) contract coming up and would keep that in mind during negotiations.





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