HAYFIELD TOWNSHIP — PENNCREST School Board is poised to vote on a round of student-made improvement projects developed under the PENNCREST Pride Project program.

Under the program, $10,000 was earmarked for each PENNCREST high school and $5,000 for each elementary school so the respective student leadership teams of each school could design their capital improvement project. The improvements must help "maintain, enhance or improve" the school through "construction, replacement, renovation or beautification" or can consist of purchasing equipment or technology with a minimum useful life of five years, according to a letter sent to each student leadership group.

The upcoming round of projects was reviewed at Monday's meeting of PENNCREST School Board, and it would appear the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on what kinds of improvements were proposed.

"Outdoor classrooms seem to be a theme, I think because of the coronavirus," Superintendent Timothy Glasspool said at the meeting.

Both Cambridge Springs schools and Maplewood Junior-Senior High School both proposed primarily putting their funds toward outdoor spaces. Saegertown Elementary School included improvements to the playground area as part of their project, though only as a use of leftover funds after the first two parts of their project.

The last round of PENNCREST Pride projects were approved in 2018, and led to new signage at Saegertown Junior-Senior High School, a remodeled courtyard at Cambridge Springs Junior-Senior High School and other such improvements.

Board member David Valesky expressed some concerns about the listed expenditures on some of the projects, saying they "might be a little excessive." He pointed to an estimated $6,000 concrete pad for Cambridge Springs Junior-Senior High School's project and the purchase of one or two 86-inch TV screens for Maplewood Junior-Senior High School's cafeteria for an estimated $1,700 each as examples.

The TV screens in the Maplewood project would only be purchased if additional money was available after the initially planned renovations, and would show news and replays of home school events during breakfast and lunch.

Other board members, however, disagreed with Valesky. Tim Brown said the school district received a really positive reception from past Pride projects, and that members of the community may offer their services toward the improvements, potentially driving down costs.

"As part of the community, if there's concrete, I can help with that," Brown said as an example.

Jeff Brooks, meanwhile, said he wanted to give the students freedom in choosing what improvements they want.

"I think a lot of it is this is student-driven, and I'm not as big of a fan of the government telling what the students want," Brooks said. "This is what they want. If they can get that and it fits in their budget, this is what the students want."

Glasspool also said the school district will have input on the projects, though emphasized it was primarily decided by students.

"Obviously there will not be any cement poured without Dave's approval and Kristen's not going to pay anybody unless it's reasonable, so we have those internal checks and balances," he said, referencing Director of Facilities and Transportation Dave Dickson and Business Manager Kristen Eckart.

Board members will vote on whether to approve the projects at their meeting Thursday. Glasspool mentioned during the meeting that this round of Pride projects might be the last for a while due to ongoing renovation work across the school district, but said an alternative would be found in the meanwhile.

Sean P. Ray can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at sray@meadvilletribune.com.

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