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Board votes to close elementary school

August 12, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, PA. - Letterkenny Elementary School will not re-open for the 2004-05 school year after a vote by the Chambersburg School Board to close the 50-year-old building.

Built in 1954, the school had approximately 85 students in first through fifth grades last year. Those students will attend Lurgan Elementary School near Roxbury, Pa., beginning Aug. 30.

"Our children deserve a good education," said Billie Reed of Upper Strasburg, Pa., president of the school's PTO. "The building we have and the staff we have is capable of giving them that," she said before the vote.

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"In a few years, you're going to have an overcrowding problem along with a possible septic problem" at Lurgan, Reed said.

"The vast majority of people are in favor of the closing and moving to Lurgan," said James Taylor, the assistant superintendent for elementary services.

"This is about money. It's not about the kids," Reed said after the meeting. She said the board members who voted for the closing care more about "who has the prettiest building and who has the biggest building."

Reed said she is considering home-schooling her two children rather than sending them to Lurgan.

The board in February voted to schedule a May 31 public hearing, a requirement for closing a school. In February, Taylor said the students would be transferred to Lurgan, which had approximately 180 students in kindergarten through fifth grade, along with classes for students with neurological and hearing impairments.

Taylor said at the time that Lurgan could accommodate the additional students. During the summer, the school has undergone a $2.3 million modernization with a new heating, air-conditioning and ventilation system and energy-efficient windows.

Board members Robert Helman, David Sciamanna, Renee Sharpe and Craig Musser voted in favor of closing Letterkenny. Board President Stanley Helman and Eugene Gayman voted against the motion.

Board members Lori Leedy, Fred Rice and Thomas Orndorf were absent because of vacations, according to Stanley Helman.

Robert Helman asked that the word "permanently" be removed from the motion to close the school, saying the district might want to retain the property for the future.

"Those of us who supported this ... agree we're heading away from one-deep elementaries," Musser said of schools with one classroom for each grade.

Stanley Helman said he would have preferred the board had given the community served by Letterkenny at least a year to prepare for the change, something the district has done with past closures.

A building plan approved by the board July 21 on a 5-4 vote, calls for the district to reduce the number of elementary schools from 18 to 12, with most of the remaining schools having two or three classes for each grade. The plan also calls for a new high school for grades nine through 12, converting the high school and junior high school to middle schools for grades six through eight and making the middle school a four-deep elementary school.

Letterkenny was not directly tied to that plan, which was developed after Musser's February proposal to close the school.

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