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Concerns About Services Prompt School Board to Refine Lease Agreement with County for Space at YES

September 26, 2023

RUSSELL, Pa. – The Warren County School District plans to modify the language in a lease agreement with Warren County to occupy space at Youngsville Elementary School.

During Monday’s Physical Plants and Facilities Committee meeting, Youngsville parent Kelly Sullivan raised security concerns over the types of services the county could bring to the facility if the lease agreement remains as written.

“Reading through this agreement, it appears that anything can be put on the second story of Youngsville Elementary School,” Sullivan said. “After speaking with Mrs. (Amy) Stewart (WCSD Superintendent) today, she stated that it will be up to ‘the commissioners’ what goes up there. This is alarming to me and a lot of other parents that I’ve spoken with today.”

Primary among Sullivan’s concerns was the language that read, “WHEREAS, the Lessee operates county programs such as a 911 Center, a Department of Human Services, and other programs in Warren County, Pennsylvania (hereinafter referred to as the “Lessee’s Programs”), requires facilities for the operation of said programs in the Warren County area, and is desirous of leasing the second floor of the Premises from the Lessor for said purpose.”

All-encompassing language that would allow the county to bring any aspect of its Human Services department to YES is what made Sullivan “very concerned.”

“I am very concerned because I know what human services entails,” Sullivan said. “They have mental health services and also children and youth. We wonder why kids are going virtual and we can’t retain teachers because the small moves that you as administrators and board members are making are big moves that are affecting students and staff.”

Board member Cody Brown agreed with Sullivan that the lease should not allow the county to bring the Department of Human Services to YES.

“I agree with Kelly on that as well,” Brown said. “I’d rather just see 911 Center and not leave it open to the Department of Human Services.”

Stewart said that while the district’s solicitor, Chris Byham, had been working on the agreement for some time, Monday was the first time a draft of the agreement had been brought to the board for review.

“The one thing that I mentioned to Kelly when we talked on the phone today, this is our first draft that the board is looking at,” Stewart said. “This could be shaped, modified in any way that the board would like to see this shaped or modified.”

The draft lease only gave the following parameters for excluded services, “Lessee shall not be permitted to operate any Program associated with persons convicted of crimes (e.g. to house inmates, to operate its probation department, etc.).”

Board member Arthur Stewart suggested a compromise that would allow the county to bring a broad range of services, but specifically exclude those that could pose a danger to students.

“Could we tighten up the restrictions paragraph to include some kind of language that doesn’t limit it to a 911 Center,” Arthur Stewart asked. “And the standard would be that the activities conducted by the county would exclude those things that are specifically excluded (in the lease), but also exclude those things that pose higher student risk than what is customary now in our schools.”

Amy Stewart said the county hadn’t specifically said what departments or services it was planning to house at YES.

“They have a lot of county agencies and different things that they could they could be working with, so we have to make sure that we’re spelling it out the way we’re comfortable,” Amy Stewart said.

Amy Stewart added that she expects the county to come back with revisions of its own after the district shares the lease.

“I can’t imagine that we will be working with a lease that that they’re just going to say yes,” Amy Stewart said. “I think there’s going to be some volley back and forth.”

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