Scotland School for Veterans' Children turns the corner

April 30, 1997


Staff Writer

SCOTLAND, Pa. - Gov. Tom Ridge's dedication of a new $2 million dining hall at the Scotland School for Veterans' Children Wednesday was a psychological boost for a school that just six years ago was threatened with closure by Ridge's predecessor.

Ridge praised the veterans council, the school administration and the school's 10-member board of directors for fighting to keep it open.

"It was your shear determination which prevented its closure," Ridge said. "Your sense of honor and courage compelled you to assume the awesome burden for its future. This new dining hall shows that the pattern of neglect has been reversed." The dining hall is the first new building on the 186-acre campus school since 1975, when a science wing opened, school Superintendent C. Frank Frame said. It is named for David Boozer, its director for 37 years. Boozer was in the audience.


Last year Ridge shifted control of the school from the state Department of Education to the state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, a move he said helped to sharply reduce the school's debt.

Much of the Scotland school's $6.6 million annual budget comes from the Pennsylvania Legislature. About $1.8 million is paid by home school districts of the school's students through a tuition recovery program. The federal government pays about $500,000 into the school each year and another $250,000 is raised by renting school facilities, Frame said.

Declining budgets dropped enrollment from 565 students in 1965 to 350 today.

The school's origins are traced to Thanksgiving Day in 1863 when two children, orphaned when their father was killed in the Civil War, knocked on the door of Gov. Andrew Curtin's house to beg for food. Curtin saw the children's plight and decided to use a $50,000 donation from the Pennsylvania Railroad to help children of men fighting for the Union.

Orphan schools sprang up around the state. By 1889 nearly 15,000 children of veterans were being cared for in orphan schools. That same year the Grand Army of the Republic, a Union veterans group, lobbied for changes in the way the schools were run. The veterans wanted fewer, better run schools. By 1893 the system was down to three schools, all of which eventually closed after the new Scotland School opened in 1895 on 180 acres in northern Franklin County.

Scotland School students live in 37, 24-room cottages that are supervised by house parents. Boys outnumber girls two-to-one. Most of the students are black, underprivileged and come from metropolitan areas like Philadelphia. Enrollment eligibility requires that a student's parent or guardian must has served in the military.

"Our students are average," Frame said. "A lot of them are behind in the basics."

"They learn how to work here, how to adjust to a very structured, regimented environment," said John F. Keith, deputy director of veterans affairs for the state.

All students between ages 8 and 12 must enroll in the junior Reserve Officers Training Corps program at the school, Keith said. He said 56 percent of the school's graduates enter college. Those who drop out of college usually do so because of finances.

In 1991, then Gov. Robert Casey tried unsuccessfully to close the school because of state budget problems.

Frame said the administration and board of directors are looking for ways to cut costs and bring in income. Proposals include selling some of the school land to developers, replacing the cottages, which are costly to maintain, with new dormitory buildings, and razing some of the old, unused buildings on the campus.

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