Split board approves land transfer for new elementary school

July 21, 2005|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - With some members calling it a bad business decision, the Chambersburg School Board Wednesday voted 5-4 to approve a land transfer with the borough of Chambersburg for the site of a new elementary school adjacent to U.L. Gordy.

The 4.6-acre site, appraised at $350,000, will be transferred to the school district at no cost, but the district will still pay about $100,000 a year to the borough toward the salary of the recreation director and assistant director through 2012 and an additional $10,000 or more for the use of other borough athletic facilities, said Board President Craig Musser. The district must also build and maintain tennis courts, a basketball court and a playground for public use, he said.

Board member Renee Sharpe said the plan to replace Gordy, which has one classroom for each grade, with a school with three classrooms in each grade on about 8 acres will cost more than $13 million. By comparison, the district is planning to build a new Fayetteville Elementary School with four classes for each grade on 10.8 acres for $11.6 million.


Musser and board members Stanley Helman, Robert Helman, Eugene Gayman and Fred Rice voted for the land transfer. Sharpe and board members Lori Leedy, Thomas Orndorf and David Sciamanna cast the dissenting votes.

"We'll be building a three-deep school that will be filled the day it opens," Sharpe said. "I don't think it's good for the taxpayers and I don't think it's good for the students."

"It makes me angry ... I think it's a poor business decision," said Leedy.

Sharpe said the Gordy site does not have enough room for future expansion.

Superintendent Edwin Sponseller said the other alternatives were to expand Grandview Elementary; leaving the students at Gordy and other borough schools in place until Chambersburg Area Middle School is converted to an elementary school; or buying land on the Gabler tract in the borough's North End.

Sponseller said the borough opposed the last option.

"We've been promising the borough a school for a long time," Sponseller said. Gayman said the land transfer was the option that would require the fewest students to be bused.

Sharpe said the district could have chosen to build on land owned by Summit Health.

Sponseller said that site would have to be purchased and would require the district to build a road to the school.

"If we paid for the land, we could get reimbursement from the state," said Sciamanna. He said the district should have considered building a larger school at a different site.

On Tuesday, Business Manager Rick Vensel said a new school at the Gordy site could be completed by late 2007.

How they voted

The Chambersburg Area School Board voted 5-4 to accept the transfer of land from the borough for a new elementary school adjacent to U.L. Gordy Elementary School.

For: Craig Musser, Stanley Helman, Robert Helman, Eugene Gayman and Fred Rice

Against: Renee Sharpe, Lori Leedy, Thomas Orndorf and David Sciamanna

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