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Duffield Elementary could become alternative school

November 30, 1999|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. ? Duffield Elementary School will close at the end of the school year, but rather than sell the property, the Chambersburg Area School District intends to lease it for use as an alternative school for its students.

At its Feb. 28 meeting, the school board authorized the administration to seek a lease agreement with Manito Inc. for use of the 77-year-old school building.

The district needs more space for a growing population of students needing alternative education programs, Assistant Superintendent Eric Michael said. The district spends in excess of $2 million per year on a variety of programs for more than 100 students, he said.

If a lease agreement is reached, Manito President Robert Whitmore said Manito will open a program there this fall. Manito runs several alternative education programs for Chambersburg and other districts, he said.

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The district has contracted for 60 slots at the Alternative High School run by Manito on Cleveland Avenue in Chambersburg, said Ted Rabold, a retired assistant superintendent who serves as a consultant to the district. The district also has 48 slots at Manito's day treatment center at the former Brown's Mill Consolidated School near Greencastle, Pa., he said.

The Alternative High School is a "drop-out return program" for students who left school, but now want to earn diplomas, Michael said. Of Chambersburg's 60 positions, Rabold said 45 are for students who dropped out, and 15 are for students who otherwise might not be able to graduate from a regular high school.

Rabold said more than half of the students enrolled at the Alternative High School, which also takes in students from other districts in Franklin County, go on to earn diplomas.

"The idea is to make the Alternative High School a curricular option, so they don't have to drop out to go there," said Joseph Padasak, superintendent of the Chambersburg Area School District.

The students at the Brown's Mill school, who primarily are there because of disciplinary issues, would go to Duffield, where Padasak said there is room for 75 students.

"We'll lease it to Manito, and they'll run the program," Padasak said.

The Alternative High School would be solely for Chambersburg students, Padasak said. He estimated it could handle 100 or more students.

Students from the other districts who now attend the Alternative High School would take their classes at the Brown's Mill school, which Padasak said is more convenient to the Waynesboro, Greencastle-Antrim and Tuscarora districts.

Chambersburg also has a contract for 18 slots at Boyer Academy at the VisionQuest facility in South Mountain, Pa. That contract will not be renewed for 2007-08, and those students likely will go to Duffield, Padasak said.

In addition to programs for students who pose disciplinary problems, or have dropped out, the district has other alternative education programs, Michael said. One is the Special Education Treatment (SET) classroom on school property that once was part of Letterkenny Army Depot.

Michael said SET is for students with "emotional issues" that prevent them from doing well in the high school.

The district's Off-Campus Suspension program also is at the Letterkenny property. The suspension program and SET both are run by Manito, Rabold said.

Alternative education is expensive, with placements costing $12,000 to $14,000 per year, compared with about $8,000 per student in district schools, Michael said. The need for the programs is growing, he said.

"We're a mirror of society ... we have increasing issues with student discipline," he said.

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