Board moves ahead with new school plans in Chambersburg

November 13, 2003|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Chambersburg School Board on Wednesday authorized the administration to begin negotiations with the borough of Chambersburg to buy or lease land to build a three-deep elementary school on the site of U.L. Gordy Elementary School and the borough's West End Playground.

"I applaud the board for taking action to begin negotiations," Borough Council President William F. McLaughlin said before the vote. "I believe this project is as important to the school district as it is to the borough."

The plan met with objections from some at the meeting, including William Ciccarelli, co-president of the Parent Teachers Organization for King Street Elementary School. He said the plan, which calls for the closure of King Street, would put many of the district's socially and economically disadvantaged students in one school.


Superintendent Edwin Sponseller said creating a larger school at the U.L. Gordy site, with three classrooms each for grades kindergarten through fifth grade, would allow the district to close the King Street school and accommodate the overflow from other nearby elementary schools.

"They're creating a ghetto," Cathy Ciccarelli, the treasurer for the King Street PTO, said after the meeting. She said the school has a large percentage of Hispanic students who would not receive the same level of individual attention at a larger school.

"Someday, someone is going to sue the district for segregation," Director Harold Fosnot said. He said the new school would draw students from poorer neighborhoods to Gordy.

"I don't see any $200,000 homes in that setup," Fosnot said.

Business Manager Rick Vensel said Gordy is on a three-acre parcel. The district wants to buy or lease all or part of the West End Playground to accommodate the larger school. He did not know how many acres the playground included, but said it would be enough for the project.

The motion, which passed by a 7-2 vote, also authorizes the administration to employ an appraiser and surveyor to facilitate the negotiations process and to negotiate with Foreman Architects of Manheim, Pa., for construction of the new school.

Foreman designed the district's new Scotland (Pa.) Elementary School, which is under construction. Vensel said the new U.L. Gordy likely would be a derivative of that design.

Last week, the borough council discussed options for the playground negotiations. Those included a lease or sale that could have provisions allowing for public access to the remaining playground space after school hours so that the neighborhood would still have an open recreation area.

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