Quakertown Community School District officials were met with a standing-room-only crowd at last Thursday's school board meeting that came out to protest a project that could squelch playground space at Quakertown Elementary.
The audience, the majority of which was made up of community members and parents of Quakertown Elementary (QE) students, opposed the board's proposal to move forward with an artificial turf field at Quakertown High School's football stadium. That project would require construction of a retention basin and stormwater infiltration system, which has been proposed for the grass area of QE's playground.
One by one, concerned individuals took to the podium prior to the board's 8-1 vote in favor of the improvements.
Many of the speakers explained their concern stems from poor communication but didn't state what that entailed. The board's facilities committee has been discussing the matter repeatedly since April 2012, school board member Bob Smith explained.
"School kids use the playground but neighborhood kids often use it for football games and to play. Please upgrade the fields for the athletes, but find a way to save the QE playground," Quakertown resident Jim Roth pleaded.
"I am asking you to turn down the bid. The playground is used by the public outside of school hours, also. And I'm worried about the pin oak on the property that is the oldest tree in Quakertown," said Quakertown resident Ellen Stack.
Stack also brought up concerns for the basin's location being so close to the school and playground equipment, as well as the possibility of goose droppings and other hazards it may create.
Although the board approved the $1,349,100 bid submitted by Grace Industries Inc. of Bath for the synthetic turf and drainage improvements, perimeter fencing and stadium landscaping, Smith remarked, "We will do whatever we can to reduce the impact on QE's playground."
School board member Joyce King also commented, "I'm sad. I wish we could make it better, but I think we need to move forward for the whole community."
School Board President Paul Stepanoff vowed that the facilities committee would look into other variations or alternatives for the drainage improvements and will be further discussed at the committee's next scheduled meeting.
In additional news, a statement was released by board officials regarding a community forum meeting scheduled for 6:30 p.m. March 20 at the District Services Center, 100 Commerce Dr., regarding options for selecting and appointing a permanent superintendent for the district. The forum will close with a survey to provide feedback on how to proceed.
The written statement read, "We want to be very transparent with you about our intentions and what you can expect. After the Community Forum and survey are completed, the Board will evaluate all the feedback received and will decide on the next step. We want to be clear that we may or may not decide to conduct a full search process."
The statement also revealed the community's positive feedback on the current substitute Superintendent Dr. Bill Harner, who will be present during the forum to answer any questions.