Administrators for the Jim Thorpe Area School District turned to a committee of teachers to build a case for a new middle school in the district. The recommendation of that committee was accepted by the board late last year. Now, the school's administration is reaching out to area residents for ideas on where to locate the new school.
Superintendent Barbara Conway said she approached the board at its most recent Athletic, Buildings and Grounds committee meeting and gave them a copy of the survey that was placed on the district's website late last week.
Conway said that the majority of members in attendance were in favor of distributing the survey and said they "thought they needed to see what the public was thinking."
Conway said that the survey was, in part, an attempt by the district to reach out to taxpayers who support the district with their tax dollars but do not have children in the schools.
"We need to consider not just parents but taxpayers that don't have children in the district," she said.
Some of these taxpayers are older residents who no longer have children in the system. These voters tend to resist additional school taxes or expenses. Another group of taxpayers are those that own properties in the area but live elsewhere, renting their properties to families that may have children in the schools.
Conway said the district already has good information on where the kids live who go to school here, but not such a good picture of who pays the property taxes on the homes in which they live. The 8 question survey, available on the school's website now, attempts to provide a better picture of who is paying taxes and where they would like to see the new school built.
This is a reversal of sorts for the Jim Thorpe board, which voted against taking additional time to gather public comment before voting on the administration's suggestion that the district build a new middle school instead of a new K-8 building.
Some board members are still resistant to the idea and fear that some options might have been presented to residents in the survey that should not have been. In particular, the board has already put out a request for bids from appraisers who can assess the value of the property adjacent to Bear Creek Lakes on State Route 903 so that it can be sold.
"She put her options in (the survey)," board member Gerald Strubinger said in a telephone interview.
While some board members have come out in favor of taking the Bear Creek property off the table, most notably former board chairman Randall Smith and Strubinger, Conway says it makes sense to consider it.
She pointed out that the district has provided some of the Bear Creek property to Penn Forest Township which is working to get a grant to construct a new park on the site. At its monthly meeting on Monday evening, Penn Forest Township Supervisor Chairman Paul Montemuro announced that the township had qualified for and received that grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources in the amount of $225,000 to be used to develop the park.
"This is a good opportunity to work with the township," Conway pointed out.
In addition, she noted that the demographics in the area have changed since Bear Creek Lake residents rose up against the project in the 90s.
"There are more families there now," she said.
The survey can be found at http://www.jtasd.org/.