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Committee hears options for closing schools, moving students

January 27, 2005|by BONNIE H. BRECHBILL

bonnieb@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Buildings and Grounds Committee of the Chambersburg Area School District discussed the options for several elementary schools in the district, but failed to reach a consensus Wednesday night.

James Taylor, assistant superintendent for elementary services, outlined for the committee the options open to them concerning Duffield, Mary B. Sharpe and Guilford Hills elementary schools.

The new Scotland Elementary School will be ready for full occupancy at the start of the next school year, he said, while a new elementary school in Fayetteville, Pa., will be ready in the fall of 2007.

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If Scotland remains a two-deep building (two classes per grade), Duffield would remain open. If Scotland becomes a full three-deep building, then a one-deep building - either Duffield or Sharpe - would close. The third option is for Scotland to be a three-deep school with additional teachers hired and enrollment increased by slightly extending the boundaries, but not closing any schools.

Students could be assigned there from Fayetteville, Grandview or Sharpe, Taylor said.

He said his administrative team recommends that Duffield be closed at the end of the current school year.

The new Fayetteville school could be expanded to a four- or five-deep school with the closing of Guilford Hills, Taylor said. Hamilton Heights Elementary School also could be expanded to a four- or five-deep building.

Citing research he obtained on the Internet, Stanley Helman said nothing he could find shows the advantage of larger schools. He said a study in Chicago showed that students in low socio-economic districts produced a 70 percent increase in achievement when their elementary schools were made smaller.

"I can't support going more than three-deep," he said. "It doesn't make sense to close Duffield and move those kids, then in two years make another change. Leave Duffield open until the Fayetteville school is completed, then close Duffield and move those kids to Fayetteville."

The cost of keeping Duffield open until the Fayetteville school is completed would be about $100,000, School Board President Craig Musser said. The cost to keep Sharpe open would be similar; both buildings are approximately the same age, size and condition.

Thomas Orndorf, chairman of the five-member committee, said he doesn't think the group "can agree on this tonight," and wants to take the three options to the full school board.

Karen Locke of Fayetteville, whose daughter is in fourth grade at Duffield, said that peer relationships and school pride are key to student achievement, and that achievement will drop if students are moved around each year.

"I don't care if your school is half full or half empty. I want my child fully educated," said Locke, a member of Duffield's Parent Advisory Council.

In another item, Bill Viverito of Chevron Energy Solutions in Lansdale, Pa., told the committee that the energy project at Chambersburg Area Middle School has saved the district $500,169 in energy costs over the past three years and three months.

Phase Two of the project, which implemented energy-saving measures at Falling Spring, Thaddeus Stevens and Andrew Buchanan elementary schools, has saved $127,782 in two years, he said.

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