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Parents protest overcrowding in district schools

September 15, 2005|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa.

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

Dozens of elementary school parents attended Wednesday's Chambersburg School Board meeting with several of them raising concerns about overcrowded classrooms, including at the new Scotland (Pa.) Elementary.

Susan Bell, the vice president of the Scotland PTA, said parents of children at that school are concerned about overcrowding, particularly in the third and fourth grades. While the board did act on an agenda item to add a third-grade teaching position at the school, Bell said there are 70 fourth-grade students in two classes.

She asked that the board consider adding a third fourth-grade teacher or a full-time school aide to free a classroom aide from other duties. Scotland, which opened in January, is built for three classrooms for each grade, but began the year with two classes in each grade.

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Another parent told the board that South Hamilton Elementary has overcrowded classes and no room to expand. She said plans to expand Hamilton Heights will not solve the problem because that area of the district is experiencing a rapid population growth.

The parent of a Duffield kindergarten student said his son's class is overcrowded as well.

"We are a frustrated community," said Sandy Bubak, another Scotland parent. In planning for new elementary schools, she said the board should be considering schools that have five or six classrooms per grade.

"You have to have some foresight. That's all we're asking," Bubak said.

"We're going to have to bite the bullet and start moving kids," said board member Lori Leedy. She called classroom sizes of more than 30 children at some of the schools "unacceptable."

Leedy said she was still upset at the board's decision earlier this summer to close three schools with one class for each grade and replace them with a new three-deep school at the site of U.L. Gordy Elementary. The decision did not address the need for more classrooms, she said.

"We have a significant number at Hamilton Heights that do not live in that area," said Board President Craig Musser.

An open enrollment policy allows parents to enroll students at schools outside the areas where they live because of day-care arrangements and special programs.

The board did vote to authorize an additional half-day kindergarten class at both South Hamilton and Duffield elementary schools.

The board also authorized scheduling a public hearing on Nov. 2 regarding the maximum project costs and building costs for a new Fayetteville Elementary School. The district is planning to build a new school with four classrooms per grade.

The estimated maximum building cost is projected at approximately $14 million, according to district figures.

The board also authorized the administration to proceed with negotiations for the purchase of land for a new high school. Business Manager Rick Vensel said the administration will have to identify what properties or pieces of properties it intends to enter into negotiations for and what price the district is willing to pay for the land.

The board last year approved an $116 million building program to include the new high school, but the project has slowed as the district has searched for property. Vensel and Musser said they could not identify any particular properties the district might be considering.

The board also authorized the administration to proceed with the preparation of specifications and to solicit bids for renovations to Trojan Stadium at the high school. The renovations would cost between $4.4 million and $5.4 million and include an eight-lane track, artificial turf and new home stands.

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