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School Board pressed for decision

January 30, 2003|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Chambersburg Area School District's Board of Directors will be pressed to make a decision on a high school building plan at next month's meeting.

Board President Stanley Helman said the subject will be on the agenda of the Feb. 12 meeting, but board members always could choose to table it if they are not ready to take action.

Helman made the announcement after a two-hour discussion on the best way to proceed with overcrowding in the district's secondary schools Wednesday. The board has weighed numerous possibilities over the last two years.

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The board reached a consensus in November that there should be only one Chambersburg high school, but agreed it could have two separate buildings, most likely one for grades nine and 10 and one for grades 11 and 12. Under the plan, there will also be two middle schools for students in grades six, seven and eight.

But while some members were ready to start looking for land to build a new school Wednesday, others questioned whether the projected growth really would arrive.

"Does everyone think overnight that Chambersburg is going to be Frederick (Md.)?" board member Bill Fosnot said.

Fosnot said the district could add another building onto the current high school site to make room to move the ninth graders out of the junior high school and consider using the former Army land it will receive from the Letterkenny Army Depot in the future if growth warrants a new high school campus.

Board member Michael Finucane said gradual population growth is inevitable and the board should take action now.

"Before all the available land is snapped up in the next decade, the board should move," he said. "I feel strongly about not cramming this site more. I don't want to jam kids so everyone thinks it's an overcrowded prison facility or something."

High School Principal Dennis Hillwig said the community is large enough now to support two high schools, or at the very least a senior high and intermediate school.

"You're very simply too big now," he said.

Superintendent Ed Sponseller has said school enrollment is projected to grow to nearly 2,600 students by 2011.

Hillwig also said for the proposed career pathways program, which will group students into paths related to career interests, to work, the ninth-graders need to become a part of it.

"It will not be successful if the ninth-graders are disjointed in some manner. Having 9-10, and 11-12 buildings is closer to the continuum we need," he said.

Sponseller said he continues to favor dividing the high school population into two schools that would be at least a mile apart.

"Supervising 3,000 kids at once is an awesome responsibility," he said. "Schools that are so big where the administrators don't recognize all of the kids can be dangerous."

The Board of School Directors will meet at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 12 at the School Administration Building at 435 Stanley Ave.

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