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Candidates have say at Chambersburg school forum

April 29, 2003|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Moderator Bill Pukmel called the question "The Big One" at Monday night's candidates' forum for the Chambersburg Area School Board - what should the district's plans be for a future high school.

"I think we have another 5-4 vote in the making," said Region 9 Director Craig Musser, referring to a vote by the board last month to spend $50,000 to further study how to achieve a comprehensive high school campus at the current site.

The 10 candidates for five board seats also were split over whether the district should have two high schools - using the existing one for ninth- and 10th-grade students and building a new school for the 11th and 12th grades - or build a new campus for a single high school.

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"We have plenty of land," Region 8 Director Harold W. Fosnot Jr. said. He favors the two-school plan with the new high school built on school district property across the street from the high school.

Fosnot said there is plenty of parking to serve a new school, but some students, faculty and staff would have to walk two blocks to a new building. Having the high school completely within Chambersburg's limits, he added, "keeps the borough alive."

Renee Sharpe, who is running for Fosnot's seat, said there would be problems bringing in more than 600 ninth-graders from the middle school to the site of the current high school. Besides that influx of additional students into the area, she did not like the idea of creating separate schools.

"They are really acting independently as separate schools," Sharpe said. She favored a new high school on one campus serving ninth through 12th grades.

David Sciamanna, who is challenging incumbent Michael B. Finucane in Region 7, said he favored one high school for grades nine through 12 in one location, although he said he had no position on where it should be built.

"I don't think the community has been completely briefed on what all the options are," Sciamanna said. A number of the district's 21 schools, however, are more than 40 years old.

"If 40 years is too old for a school, we can padlock the high school and Faust" Junior High, Finucane said. He wants the high school converted to use for freshmen and sophomores with another school "within a couple minutes drive of it."

"I personally don't like to see the kids going to the borough," said Region 5 candidate Lori Leedy. She also said the current location would become overcrowded if a second school is built on the district property and wants one school at a new location.

The existing high school, she said, could be converted to a middle school or some other use.

"The smartest thing we can do is look at the alternative of a separate site," said Larry L. Hoover, one of two challengers for the seat held by Region 2 Director Stanley J. Helman.

Kirby Hockensmith, who also is running in Region 2, said he favored building a school for the upper classes next to the high school. He said the district would be better off using money it might spend on new land on the new school instead.

Helman said he favored the two-school option, but also wants more study on the costs of the options.

"It might make it more cost effective to go outside the borough," he said.

"The future may come to this ... two schools in the area," said Matthew J. Sites, who is running against Musser in Region 9. He said the area may someday require two complete high schools and the district should look at buying a site for the other school, even if it's not built for another 15 years.

"We need to solve the short-term problem" of school overcrowding, he said. Creating one large campus could create more problems in the future.

"You don't want 4,000 students in the same school," Sites said.

Musser said he favors converting Faust Junior High into a ninth- and 10th-grade school, and using the existing high school for juniors and seniors. That plan would require building a new middle school.

Region 5 Director Penny W. Stoner was unable to attend the candidates forum.

The primary is May 20.

All of the candidates except Hockensmith and Sites filed to run in both the Democratic and Republican primaries. It is possible for voters to select separate Republican and Democratic nominees in each of the regions for the general election in November, or one candidate could conceivably capture both nominations for their region.

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