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Task force continues debate on high school building plan

May 05, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Members of a task force examining the facilities needs of Chambersburg Area School District got a look at some big numbers Tuesday, but most of the discussion was not about how much to spend, but what to spend it on.

"Can we make a decision on one high school or two high schools tonight?" asked school board member Lori Leedy.

Paul Taylor of Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates, the architectural firm working with the 45-member task force, presented five options for secondary school configurations and 10 for elementary schools, but after more than two hours, the discussion was still primarily about the high school.

The options ranged from one vastly enlarged high school at the existing site, to separate schools for ninth and 10th grades and 11th and 12th grades, or two separate schools for grades nine through 12.

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"The great majority of parents I talked to are very uncomfortable with the idea of 2,800 students in the same building," said Susan Berrier, of the Parent Advisory Council.

"Most said they wanted a 9-10 building and an 11-12 building," she said.

"I was probably the original advocate for two high schools," Board President Stanley Helman said. The community, however, will not accept the idea at this point, he said.

Franklin County Area Development Corp. President L. Michael Ross said perception is sometimes reality and people coming to the region pick school districts based on facilities.

"What they see in this community is not what they are looking for," Ross said. He said affluent residents are choosing private schools and home schooling, which could create a public school system where "the poor and the needy and the special needs kids are going to congregate."

Helman responded that districts such as Gettysburg, Pa., which have embarked on major building programs have lower test scores at higher costs per student than Chambersburg.

Taylor suggested that two buildings for different grade groupings connected by "common core facilities ... might be something this group should seriously consider."

The issue was then put to a show of hands.

Only a few raised their hands when asked if they favored one large high school for grades nine through 12.

About two dozen hands went up when he asked who favored a ninth- and 10th-grade building and an 11th- and 12th-grade building at one location, as opposed to two such schools at different sites.

How that might be achieved will have to be decided by the nine members of the school board at a future date. All of the options have hefty price tags.

The least expensive secondary school option was to more than double the size of the high school, and expand both the middle school and junior high at a cost of $110 million. The high school would then have grades nine through 12 and both middle schools would have grades six through eight.

The most expensive option at $155.7 million would create two small high schools, while using the current high school and the junior high as middle schools.

The elementary options ranged from $47 million to $75 million, depending on whether the district keeps seven, eight or 10 schools and whether it opts for full-day kindergarten.

The district currently has 18 elementary schools.

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