Residents to board: High school decision needs to be made soon

August 29, 2002|by STACEY DANZUSO

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The one thing that residents of the Chambersburg Area School District could agree on Wednesday night was that the time has come to make a decision on the future of the high school.

What that decision should be, however, varied considerably among the 200 people who attended a public meeting.

A telling moment came late in the meeting when Jan Lotus cut to the chase.

She asked the audience to express support for one high school or two by a show of hands.

The majority of parents, retirees and educators raised their hand in favor of one high school.

"We trust you to figure out how to do it," Lotus, who has two children at Scotland Elementary School, said to the board.

Parent Lori Leedy wrestled with her own opinions on the options and finally came to a conclusion while addressing the school board.


"I think I made up my mind. I think we need two schools," she said. "I don't think there is a right or wrong. I just think we need to do this."

Leedy said enough time has been spent on studies and discussions.

"It's a big decision, but it's time to make that decision," she said.

The school board has been discussing ways to reconfigure secondary education in the district for more than two years.

Possible options include building one new "mega high school," renovating the existing high school and building a second smaller high school to create a two-school district, renovating and expanding Chambersburg Area Senior High School and building a ninth-grade school on adjoining property.

Some who spoke at Wednesday's meeting offered even more ideas.

Donna Brooks suggested building a new senior high school but keeping it to only grades 10 through 12 so that it doesn't get too big.

Greg Plasterer supported a new high school but added the idea of using the old one to create a second middle school in the district.

He said this would give more students a chance to develop skills in sports and music at a younger age, and then the high school could pick the best from both schools to fill out their teams and bands.

Dave Sciamanna, president of the Chambersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, and Doug Harbach, president of the Chamber board, said that organization's position was to renovate CASHS.

"The Chamber board believes that dividing the school district is too costly and would create long-term economic and socio-economic issues," Sciamanna said. "We support keeping the current grade structure and expanding and rehabilitating the current school to create a completely renovated facility."

That didn't sit well with some.

"It might be folly to spend $40 or $50 million on the existing landlocked high school," said Alan Kohler, president of the Parents Advisory Council.

He said what did disturb him was that no one seemed to be looking more than 10 or 15 years in the future, and growth in the Cumberland Valley Business Park and the distribution center to the south of the borough could bring an influx of families to the district.

One current CASHS student spoke in favor of a new mega school.

"The education opportunities are greater in one school so the district can devote all of its time and energy to one school," said junior Chris Boryan. "I believe the high school should be the crown jewel of the district."

Curtis Berry, who graduated from CASHS in 1976, said the opposite.

"Your predecessors 50 years ago made a tragic error and failed to go to a two high school system," he said to the board. "Think about the experiences of urban schools that size. All the problems associated with those schools will come with" a 3,000-student mega school, he said.

The costs of the proposals, which range from about $40 million for renovations to more than $80 million for a mega school, also came up.

"I believe we need an educational complex. But keep in mind there are seniors on a limited income," said retiree Marvin Stoner.

The school board does not have any timetable for making a decision.

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