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New school plan delayed in Chambersburg

January 15, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - A tie vote Wednesday by the Chambersburg School Board has put on hold plans to build a three-deep elementary school at the present site of U.L. Gordy Elementary School.

A motion to approve a contract with Foreman Architects for construction of a new U.L. Gordy failed on a 4-4 vote, delaying any action on the $11 million to $12 million project until a facility study advisory board comes back with a recommendation, probably no earlier than May 31.

The formation of that advisory board, a task force of up to 45 members, was approved by the board on a 7-1 vote and will hold its first meeting Feb. 3.

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Directors Dave Sciamanna, Renee Sharpe, Lori Leedy and Robert Helman voted against the contract. Directors Stanley Helman, Craig Musser, Eugene Gayman and Fred Rice voted in favor.

Director Thomas Orndorf was absent from the meeting due to illness, according to Business Manager Rick Vensel.

"It would seem ... that spending any money until the study is completed would be irresponsible," Sciamanna said before the vote. Last month when he, Sharpe and Leedy were sworn in, the board voted 6-3 in favor of expanding a facilities study for the district that originally was to focus on whether Chambersburg Area Senior High School could be expanded at its present borough site.

"The U.L. Gordy site gives us the best option to take care of the north end of the borough," according to Musser, who said the school is part of a program adopted several years ago to replace some smaller grade schools with schools with three classes in grades kindergarten through fifth grade.

Gayman said there has been "nearly unanimous" consensus by previous boards to build larger schools and reduce the number of grade schools from 19 to 12. He said reversing that decision would "trash" the work done by previous boards.

"I have met with the faculty at Gordy ... and they are not convinced that is best for their students," Sharpe said. One of her concerns was that building the school would result in closing smaller schools with disadvantaged and minority students who would then be concentrated at Gordy.

"We need to look at mixing our school population better," Sharpe said.

"I don't think the motion identifies what students go where," Musser said. Decisions on what schools will close and which students go to Gordy would be made later, he said.

If the board had approved the contract, Vensel said it would likely be four years before a new school opened it doors. The new school was to be similar the Scotland school now under construction, he said.

Musser introduced the motion to approve the task force, amending it to add members from the AARP, Kittochtinny Historical Society and Franklin County Farm Bureau. Superintendent Edwin Sponseller said the advisory board will meet at 7 p.m. on the first and third Tuesday of each month.

The task force would also include the board members and one representative picked by each, three representatives of the minority community, two high school students, two parents, one representative from each of the six municipalities in the district, members from each of the district's unions and school staff members, as well as the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Chambersburg 21st Century Partnership and a taxpayer group.

Each group will select its own representative, according to the guidelines.

The task force will work with the architectural firm Crabtree Rohrbaugh & Associates in identifying the district's facilities needs. As part of the motion, the board approved $88,000 for the study.

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