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Chambersburg school building options outlined

April 04, 2002|BY STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Chambersburg Area School Board weighed three building options Wednesday night, including one to build a "mega high school," that would relieve overcrowding at the middle, junior high and high schools, but is still months away on a clear consensus.

The board began discussing future building plans about two years ago, and a list of options has been whittled down to three, Superintendent Edwin Sponseller said.

He said research suggests there is no best plan for grade configuration in secondary schools.

"The size should be a major consideration," Sponseller said. "The ideal size is 400 to 800 students. I believe since Columbine, the sizes have been reduced."

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The options considered Wednesday include:

n Two high schools that house grades nine to 12. That would require building a new high school north of town for about $48 million and renovating the existing high school for about $39 million.

n One high school for grades 10 to 12 at the existing building and locating the ninth-graders at the middle school. Renovating Chambersburg Area Senior High School would still be necessary and cost about $39 million. It would cost about $35 million to build another middle school, which would split the sixth, seventh and eighth grades with J. Frank Faust Junior High School.

n Build one "mega high school" for grades nine through 12 that would house up to 3,000 students and cost about $86 million. The existing middle school and junior high school would split the sixth, seventh and eighth grades and the current high school would be left unoccupied.

After about two hours of discussion among board members, they asked Sponseller to come up with a comparison of operational costs for two high schools and a mega school. He will present those figures at a meeting in June and board members said they will further narrow the options after that.

The board was divided on which option was the best.

Michael Finucane said he was in favor of two high schools, citing research he read that smaller schools show better academic performance and attendance, greater parent involvement and lower drop-out rates.

"Not getting lost in the shuffle is so important," he said.

Robert Helman pointed out all of the opportunities that would be created for students with a second school.

"There will be twice as many starting quarterbacks and drum majors," he said. "The district should have been divided some time ago. Someone has to bite the bullet and it might as well be us."

Stanley Helman said he was also against a mega school.

"I see it as being extremely difficult to manage. Existing problems will be magnified in a school that size," he said.

However, not everyone agreed.

Bill Fosnot and Tom Orndorf questioned the operating costs and how the schools could be divided equally. Fosnot said Chambersburg's size is its advantage because it allows the high school to offer a greater variety of classes as well as more advanced classes.

Board President D. Eugene Gayman offered a different perspective on why they should consider one school.

"There is also pride and uniqueness of being a graduate of CASHS," Gayman said. "If we go to two high schools, it loses something in that process."

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