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Many in Chambersburg glad decision was made on schools

July 26, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Opinions differ on aspects of the building plan narrowly approved by the Chambersburg School Board last week, but a sampling of district residents shows many thought some kind of decision needed to be made.

"I'm very happy someone finally made a decision ... and let's hope they made the right one," said Greg Roberts of Chambersburg. "Any decision is better than no decision, and I think that's a positive move for the community and these guys," he said, referring to the children attending Sunday's Summer Jam at Donald Waters Memorial Playground.

"I think it's a good thing they took a vote because it's time to do something," said Doug Lehman of Chambersburg. That, however, did not mean he wholeheartedly accepts the plan.

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"My preference is they split the school district ... because it's so spread out," Lehman said.

That not being an option, Lehman said he prefers one high school campus instead of two schools because two could divide the community.

Whatever the decision, Lehman said two things are inevitable.

"It's going to cost a lot of money and taxes are going to go up," he said.

The options have an estimated cost of $132.6 million, according to the Mechanicsburg, Pa., architectural firm of Crabtree Rohrbaugh and Associates.

The vote did not include authorizing preparation of a debt resolution, something that could happen at an Aug. 18 meeting of the board.

On a 5-4 vote, the board approved a secondary option to create a new high school campus for grades nine through 12. The high school and Faust Junior High would become middle schools, according to the option.

"I think it sounds like an awfully big school," DeWayna Pittman of Chambersburg said of the plan to build a high school complex for about 2,800 students.

"I think it was sudden, but I think it was time it was done," Pittman said of the vote on the plan, which was not included on the agenda for last Wednesday's meeting.

"I think it was a good plan, but the way they went about it, I think, was wrong," said Steve Ross of Fayetteville, Pa. Because it was not on the agenda, people did not have the opportunity to come to the meeting to voice their opinions, he said.

Although the plan will take years to implement and many details could change, some residents had reservations about plans to consolidate the elementary schools from 18 to a dozen, including converting Chambersburg Area Middle School to an elementary school.

"That's the part I don't like, because little kids going into kindergarten would be going to a big school," said Mabel Hogue of Chambersburg. Hogue said she had no problem with one high school campus.

The elementary option, as voted on, would close Sharpe, King Street, Gordy and Coldbrook elementary schools in Chambersburg, as well as schools in Duffield, Pa., and Marion, Pa.

"I think it would be to their advantage to keep the schools in the smaller towns" to avoid busing students, said Madeleine Bean.

"We still like the idea of small neighborhood schools," said Marsha Schmus of Chambersburg. She said her family moved so their children eventually could attend Mary B. Sharpe, one of the district's oldest schools, but also one of its best, based on state standardized tests.

"We understand those buildings can't continue as they are," Schmus said of the district's aging buildings.

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