Several months ago I wrote in hopes that the school board would be willing to correct some “misinformation” that it had distributed in the June 2006 edition of the District Digest.
Since at least as far back as May 2004, when the Community Advisory Committee was evaluating various high school modernization options, the Board has been telling the public of a PA Dept. of Education (PDE) guideline that requires a minimum of 60 acres for a new 2500 student high school (although they are now using a 2600 student figure corresponding to 61 acres). The regulation to which the Board refers actually says the opposite. Rather than require a minimum of 60 acres, it defines the 60 acres as a maximum for which the PDE would participate in acquisition. Aside from the language of the regulation being crystal clear, the PDE has orally confirmed my interpretation several times, stating that they have no regulation that defines a minimum property size. Yet, each time I ask the Board if they intend to correct this error, I get the same “civil” reply: “Thank you for your comments, next speaker.”
But at the October 23, 2006 Board meeting, the very last speaker asked the Board to respond to my comment comparing Superintendent Savedoff’s statement in the June 2006 District Digest with Chapter 349.7 of the PDE School Building Standards and my request that this misinformation be corrected in the next District Digest. And, to my surprise, Board President Larry Rosenwald did respond, stating; “We believe the regulation as quoted was correct and we have spoken to our Solicitor about it.”
Now, I know that some regulations are ambiguous, resulting in more than one reasonable interpretation, but this reply surprised me. So, I would ask you to decide on the quality of advice the Board has allegedly been given by Solicitor Kenneth Roos.
In the June 2006 edition of the District Digest, Superintendent Savedoff states that: “The Pennsylvania Dept. of Education’s guidelines for new high school construction require an initial 35 acres + 1 additional acre for every 100 students. In order to construct a single school of suitable size for all LMSD students (combining Harriton and Lower Merion High school populations), the District would need a property totaling 61 acres (35 acres + 26 acres to accommodate the projected enrollment of 2600 students at the high schools). Harriton, the larger of the two current high school sites, has a total area of only 50 acres. The District could acquire additional property through eminent domain, but the costs and potential delays could be prohibitive.”
Chapter 349.7 of the PDE School Building Standards entitled Approval of Sites, states: “(a) Approvable size. Usable acreage as follows shall be considered optimum: elementary schools—10 acres; schools for middle grades—20 acres, schools for high school grades—35 acres” and the regulation goes on to state two conditions as follows: “(1) In general, maximum approvable site sizes shall be the stated optimum, plus one acre for each 100 full-time equivalent students in projected enrollment. (2) Minimum approvable site sizes shall consider factors related to land availability, proximate shared use land, and other reasonable considerations.”
The way I read this, what the Superintendent states in the Digest as a “PDE required” minimum property size is actually the maximum property size as far as the PDE is concerned. Could it be that District Solicitor, Kenneth A. Roos, of the Blue Bell law firm Wisler Pearlstine, sees the digest statement as an accurate representation of the PDE’s regulations? While I find that hard to believe that any attorney would give this advice, I have to rely on what Board President Larry Rosenwald has said to me when I objected to him erroneously crediting me with various statements. “Mr. Manginelli, we’ll let the public decide whose telling the truth.” Mr. Roos declined to comment.