Pennsauken Approves School Plan

By Jim Walsh| March 13, 2018 for Courier Post

PENNSAUKEN - The township’s school system will see sweeping changes after voters strongly backed a $35.6 million improvement plan, Superintendent Ronnie Tarchichi said Wednesday.

"I think they saw Pennsauken needs a turnaround," Tarchichi said of residents who supported the district's proposal by a 3-to-1 margin.

Unofficial results showed 1,896 votes in favor of a plan to restructure district schools, with 663 opposed.

Pennsauken Schools
Pennsauken Superintendent of Schools Ronnie Tarchichi addresses a roomful of supporters after a victory in the district bond referendum. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.

The Pennsauken plan calls for an all-day prekindergarten program, creation of a magnet high school, and demolition of Longfellow Elementary School to make way for a park.

It would direct $13.4 million to Pennsauken High School, with $6.3 million for improvements to the stadium and other athletic facilities.

Martin Booker Jr. carries the ball for Pennsauken High School at a home game in September 2016. Voters on Tuesday approved plans for a new turf field as part of a $35.6 million improvement package. (Photo: Courier-Post file photo)

The district, which will receive $11 million in state aid, also plans to add three science labs and six classrooms to a 1,300-student middle school.

Pennsauken High would see improvements to its auditorium, library, locker rooms and gymnasium, as well as construction of a plumbing lab.

It also will install security vestibules — requiring visitors to pass through two sets of locked doors — at each school. Elementary schools would add new doors and windows.

The district has said the project’s impact on property taxes would be more than offset by the expiration of existing debt. It has predicted an overall tax decline of $11.06 for a home assessed at the township average of about $140,000.

The expanded pre-K program will serve up to 300 students, according to the district. Those students will occupy newly built classrooms at five schools.

Once the district is restructured, officials say, the elementary schools will serve youngsters in kindergarten through third grade; Pennsauken Intermediate School will hold grades four and five; and Phifer Middle School will hold sixth, seventh and eighth grades.

It says Longfellow could close by September. Roosevelt Elementary School would be converted one year later into a 200-student magnet high school with an emphasis on science and mathematics.

The magnet school eventually could expand to serve students from elsewhere in Camden County, Tarchichi said.

 

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