Back to the books for Franklin County, Pa., students

August 31, 2004|by DON AINES and RICHARD F. BELISLE

FRANKLIN COUNTY, PA. - "Diesel fuel and new sneakers. That's the smell of the first day of school," Chambersburg Area Middle School Principal Tim Bowers said last week.

"And fresh paint," added Barry Purvis, principal of Chambersburg Area Senior High School.

"I don't like the paint job. Too much blue," senior Daniel Brooks said Monday during the first lunch of his last year in high school. The remodeled cafeteria looked more like a mall food court with lines for the Trojan Deli, Trojan Cafe, Trojan Pizzeria and other fare.

"I'd rather be asleep," senior Sean Bolton said. A few tables over, another student appeared to be asleep.

"He may just be meditating," Purvis said before sitting down to lunch. "This is where I always eat, with the kids. You get the pulse of what's going on."


During the past two summers, the 49-year-old school has undergone about $10 million in improvements, Purvis said. "We've done about as much as we can with this old school."

Purvis would not predict what he will be doing in five or six years when the district might open a new high school. The school board is scheduled to vote Wednesday on a $116 million debt resolution to pay for a new high school, two new elementary schools and other improvements.

Students with bare midriffs and halter tops were walking the hallways and sitting in the cafeteria, despite adjustments to the dress policy that require more modest attire. Purvis said student dress will get a closer look and "we're hoping it's not going to be a big issue this year."

A bigger concern for him was implementing Educational Pathways, a new program that encourages students to direct their studies to arts and humanities, business technology, engineering and industry or health, science and human services.

"We've got to get our subgroups off the school improvement list," Purvis said. Some demographic groups, such as students in special education or from lower-income homes, need to reach proficiency levels in standardized state tests, he said.

Approximately 8,000 students returned Monday to the district's 17 elementary and three secondary schools, Schools Superintendent Edwin Sponseller said. About 10 percent of the faculty is new with 54 teachers hired since last year, he said.

"My phone has been very quiet all morning," Sponseller said of the day's smooth start. A truck hitting a utility pole on Warm Spring Road did knock out power to South Hamilton Elementary, but it was restored in about 30 minutes, he said.

The board earlier this month voted to close Letterkenny Elementary, so those students now attend Lurgan Elementary, which underwent $2.3 million in renovations over the summer. Scotland Elementary students can watch the finishing touches being put on the $11 million New Scotland next door before they begin attending classes there in January.


"It was like walking into a new school," Tom Stapleford, superintendent of the Tuscarora School District in Mercersburg, Pa., said Monday of the cleanup efforts at Mercersburg Elementary School after vandals did more than $25,000 in damages.

Two youths, one 16, the other 14, entered the school on the night of Aug. 19 by removing screws from a grate leading to a boiler room. Once inside they spread paint found in a storage locker on walls, ceilings and carpeted floors in the school's hallways, Stapleford said.

A private contractor and volunteers cleaned up the school and repainted the walls. New carpeting and damaged ceiling tiles were replaced over the weekend, he said.

"They did a great job. About the only left to do is some baseboard trim," he said.

A juvenile court hearing was held Friday for the two youths and they were put on house arrest.

"They can't leave their houses without permission from the judge," Stapleford said.

One of the boys helped to install the new carpeting over the weekend "as a first step toward restitution," he said.

He said the Tuscarora School Board will consider the boys' fate at a Sept. 13 meeting. They are currently on suspension.

Stapleford said he will recommend that the youths be sent to an alternative school program rather than be expelled.

Elsewhere in the district, James Buchanan Middle School students and faculty entered a school building undergoing major renovations this year, Stapleford said.

"The students are rolling with the punches and the faculty and administration have a great attitude," he said.


There were no first-day blues in the Greencastle-Antrim School District, according to Schools Superintendent P. Duff Rearick.

"We opened with about 2,760 students, about 2.5 percent more than last year, but everything went smoothly," Rearick said.

Bussing went OK expect for the usual first-day problems of making sure the youngest students got off at the right stop. "It's a real challenge for the bus drivers, but they do an outstanding job," he said.


Barry Dallara, schools superintendent of the Waynesboro Area School District, said Monday was a "typical start" for the first day of school. A few busses arrived at school a little later than usual and a few got home a little later, he said.

Waynesboro started the year off with 4,050 students, "a few more than last year," Dallara said.

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