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Schuylkill Valley unsure if high school air conditioning project will be done in time

The Schuylkill Valley School Board paid extra to make sure that work on the high school HVAC system was to be complete before the school year starts, but has learned the work might not be done in time.

And, the contractor asked the board to buy 40 temporary cooling units at a total cost of $57,319 to be on the safe side.

The board felt the heat Monday night, and so did everybody else in attendance because the high school auditorium, like the rest of the building, is without air conditioning due to the ongoing work by energy firm EI Associates of Harrisburg.

The project was due to be over Aug. 15 with the first day of classes on Aug. 25. The board paid an extra $8,000 to ensure that goal could be met, members said.

But Jim Martin, EI Associates director of production, told them that supply chain problems are contributing to the work falling behind schedule.

“And now we’re being told we need to pay $57,000 to cool the building,” board member Alfonso F. Rossi said.

The total cost of the project was unavailable.

“The school district does want to have the ability to cool the spaces,” said Martin, “and right now with the temperature differentials until mid-September, there is a need to cool those spaces.”

The discussion of purchasing the cooling units was tabled.

The next regularly scheduled board meeting is Aug. 22. There was no mention about the potential for a special meeting before Aug. 22.

The board also approved the employment of teachers and personnel for the 2022-23 school year, including an elementary school principal, Shannon O’Donnell, and assistant principals at the middle and high schools, Jennifer Gabryluk and Toni Crater.

Board member G. Dane Miller dissented on the hiring of fall sports coaches, saying the coaches are not paid enough. Rossi and Paul L. Bendigo joined his dissent.

“If a sport feels they need extra coaches for any particular reason,” Miller said, “right now, the only recourse is the coaches on the staff have to share their salaries to pay those people. I think we can afford to pay them what they are supposed to get.”

The motion to hire the coaches passed 5-3.

Miller also dissented on a motion to approve overnight trips for the wrestling team to attend tournaments in Bethlehem and Williamsport this school year, calling them trips that can easily be replaced due to high gas prices and saying the money would be better spent paying coaches.

Miller motioned to eliminate the trips and schedule alternatives. District athletic director Stephanie Deibler said that the Bethlehem trip gave opportunities to student wrestlers that were hard to replace.

“My opinion would be that we can certainly open an alternative tournament with Williamsport,” Deibler said to the board, “but we should continue to see Bethlehem Catholic, because it gives kids the opportunity to see other students from Berks County.”

“We don’t want to cut out the rug from under them,” Rossi said. “But we should look at the cost.”

An amended motion to look for alternative, less expensive trips passed unanimously.

In other business, Monday’s meeting saw the unveiling of the Schuylkill Valley Education Foundation to raise funds for programs outside the district’s operating budget.

“Individuals and foundations have come forward wanting to make a donation to the school district,” said foundation President Courtnie Nein in a May 2022 YouTube video shown at the meeting, “and up until this point we did not have a way to accept those donations.”

Schuylkill Valley was one of the few school districts in the county that did not have an education foundation. The foundation has been in the works since 2018.

“It’s great to see it coming to its fruition, finally,” said board member Robert M. Dempsey.

Source: Berkshire mont

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