Leading the Pledge of Allegiance

Avery Dries, a first grader at Baugher Elementary School, delivers the Pledge of Allegiance as June Citizen of the Month at the Milton Area School District board meeting on Tuesday evening.

MILTON — The Milton Area School District board voted Tuesday to retain the district’s Center Street property, the possible sale of which has been a matter of ongoing discussion by the board.

An amended agenda item, recommended by board member Eric Moser, called for the removal of the sale of the vacant lot on Center Street from further board discussion and formally declared the district’s intent to maintain ownership of the property, which was approved by a vote of 6-1, with board member Lindsay Kessler voting no.

Business Administrator Derrek Fink said the Milton Fire Department had expressed interest in acquiring the lot from the school, but only at the cost of the related legal fees, or an easement to allow rear access to their building, something at least one other individual voiced interest in.

Moser said he felt uncomfortable granting such a request to a private individual, and while the fire department would be a different matter, he would rather the district retain the property should it come of use in the future, including his own suggestion of possibly being used to be build a greenhouse as part of an agricultural education space.

Fink said at the board’s May committee meeting that the property costs the district an estimated $12,887 yearly to maintain.

Damion Spahr, of SitelogIQ, presented on the status of the Baugher Elementary School renovation project. Spahr said the company has received plans from the architect, to be finalized by the project’s engineer, and pricing based on those plans has begun. He said meetings with Baugher elementary principal David Slater and other administrators have also been taking place to coordinate the moving of fifth graders to White Deer Elementary School for the coming year.

“We’re really evaluating the site work package... if there are operational things that we’re doing now which have made improvements, then we don’t have to spend as much site work money now, maybe that could be spent inside the building, improving the program and preserving the assets of the building,” said Spahr.

Spahr said he will present more detailed options moving forward to the board in July in order to prepare to begin work in August or September, with an anticipated end date of summer 2024. Spahr said steps in the immediate future, before final approval of the project in August, include the installation of a path behind the school and a wall in the school’s D pod in order to create an extra classroom.

“Really with the way we’ve set this out now, and because we’ve avoided things like modular classrooms, etc., we’ve set ourselves up I think to be in a good position, to be not only thoughtful but do the right things with the budget money that we have,” Spahr added.

In her report to the board, Superintendent Dr. Cathy Keegan included a summary of previous discussions by past board members from the 2018-2019 school year regarding initial plans and outlines for the Baugher project, including an original estimated cost of $10.8 million. Keegan noted the board at the time voted to allow for soft cost increases of 10%.

An executive session to discuss personnel near the midpoint of the meeting lasted roughly 50 minutes, after which the board voted to approve a memorandum of understanding between the Milton Area Education Association and an unnamed district employee.

The board also voted to terminate the district’s transportation contract with Hackenberg Buses Inc., at the company’s request, conditioned upon its responsibility for any costs incurred while finding a replacement transportation service for the remainder of their original agreement, set to end in 2024. As part of the same block vote, the board voted to approve FishingCreek Transportation as the district’s new transportation provider through the 2026-2027 school year, at the same rate as the prior provider’s agreement.

At the conclusion of the meeting, board member Kenneth Snyder requested that a financial analysis be conducted on the viability of hiring two additional school resource officers in light of campus security incidents that occurred at the end of the school year. Board member Joshua Hunt had previously inquired about hiring additional officers. Fink said the district currently spends $98,000 to employ two officers, so it would cost an equivalent amount plus expenses related to equipment to hire two more.

In other business, the board approved the following resignations and retirements:

• Nicole Gessner, speech and language pathologist, effective June 15. Gessner has worked for the district for eight years.

• Marissa Jacobs, special education transition coordinator, effective June 15. Jacobs has worked for the district for nine years.

• Sandra McCullough, learning support teacher at Baugher Elementary School, effective June 1. McCullough has worked for the district for 22 years.

• April Smith, reading specialist at Baugher Elementary School, effective Sept. 6, a change from the previous retirement date of June 1 approved earlier this year. Smith has worked for the district for 29 years.

• Kara Steck, health and physical education teacher at Baugher and White Deer elementary schools, effective May 27. Steck has worked for the district for 29 years.

The board approved the hiring of:

• The Beard Legal Group as school solicitor from July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023. Board member Joshua Hunt voted no.

• Trent Donlan, health, fitness and wellness center instructor, effective Aug. 11, at $56,967 per year.

• Misty Harris, special education supervisor, effective July 1, at $90,000 per year. Board member Stephanie Strawser abstained.

The board also voted to approve the hiring of 33 athletic coaches and extracurricular positions for the 2022-2023. Due to COVID-19, the board had previously voted to approve these positions separately for each sports season. Snyder voted no on approval, while Moser abstained.

The June Citizen of the Month was Avery Dries, a first grader at Baugher Elementary School. Her parents are Sarah and Christopher Dries.

Andrew Fredrick, board vice president, and Brett Hosterman, board member, were absent from the meeting.

The meeting was preceded by an executive session and concluded with a third executive session to discuss further personnel matters.

Staff writer Matt Stulberg can be reached at 570-742-9671 ext. 114 or email matts@standard-journal.com.

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