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Leaders of parent group disagree with school board decision

February 14, 2003|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Some Chambersburg school board members felt its decision Wednesday to study creating a campus for grades nine to 12 on the current high school site was the next logical step in a more than two-year discussion on a secondary school building plan.

The vice president of the Parent Advisory Council said she felt it reflects the board's indecision.

"I am very disappointed at the inability of our board to make decisions and participate in productive consensus building, with many of the votes ending with a 5-4 outcome," Lori Leedy said.

Chambersburg Area School Board of Directors Vice President Penny Stoner had a different view.

"I think it is a middle ground for all of us," she said. "I think it is full-speed ahead."

Some were hopeful the board would make a decision Wednesday on its secondary school building plan so the district could start thinking about buying land and hiring architects. More than two years ago the same board initiated discussions on how best to deal with an overcrowded and aging high school that could not accommodate ninth-graders.

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On Wednesday the nine-member board first reaffirmed its support for the district to continue with one senior high school, with separate buildings for grades nine and 10 and 11 and 12.

The board then defeated a motion 5-4 to build the new intermediate high school on the property the district owns on Stanley Avenue, across from Chambersburg Area Senior High School, to create a high school campus to serve grades nine through 12.

By the same margin it defeated Superintendent Ed Sponseller's recommendation to build an intermediate school at a separate site less than four miles away.

The board then baffled some parents by voting 5-4 to authorize the administration "to investigate and study the possibility of redesign of the present high school property and the Stanley Avenue property into a unified nine to 12 campus."

Stoner, Bill Fosnot, Eugene Gayman, Robert Helman and Tom Orndorf supported the motion. Board President Stanley Helman, Mike Finucane, Craig Musser and Fred Rice voted against it.

"It is obvious school board members are in over their heads, and they just can't handle it," said Alan Kohler, president of the Parent Advisory Council.

"After three long years of discussing this issue there is still no recommendation. Many of us think the board needs to get help from the community and feel they should explore those options," Leedy said.

Kohler agreed, saying he is pushing for a citizens facilities planning commission of board members, business leaders, educators and others in an effort to reach a community consensus.

He said the Parent Advisory Council does not support building on the current site in order to move the ninth-graders out of Faust Junior High School.

"That is the cheapest alternative, but there is not enough room. If there is growth, there is no room for expansion and we'll be out in 10 years from now building another school anyway," he said.

Stoner said she believes there is enough room at the site for additional construction, and that the decision shows agreement the new construction will occur on the existing high school site or across the street on the Stanley Avenue property. However, it could come in the shape of a building for grades nine and 10 or just ninth grade.

Although Stanley Helman voted against the motion and said the site in question is not large enough for all the students, he said he would support whatever decision wins the majority of the board's approval.

He said he thought the board's indecision reflects the difficulty of the situation, and that he hoped the administration would come back with a recommendation quickly in order to keep the process moving.

"I don't feel (Wednesday's decision) was a setback. I don't feel we made progress, but I don't feel we went backward. At worst we stood still," he said.

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