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Study says student numbers will soar in district

November 17, 2005|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Thousands of new housing units are approved, planned or under discussion in the six municipalities that make up the Chambersburg Area School District, and more houses mean more children and possibly more school construction over the next decade, according to a growth study.

The Pennsylvania Economy League study reviewed by the school board Wednesday projected the student population will increase by roughly 1,500 students, or 17.7 percent, over the next decade to about 9,900 in 2015-16. During that time, elementary enrollment will go up 12.6 percent to 4,346 and middle school enrollment will increase 21 percent to 2,440.

In grades nine through 12, the grades that would occupy a new high school, the population will increase by 575, or 22.7 percent over the decade to 3,113, according to Charles W. Watters of the Pennsylvania Economy League.

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"The next five years at the elementary level are pretty much a lock" and are based on births that already have occurred, Watters told the board and other school officials. Secondary student growth projections for the period also are locked in based on numbers of students already enrolled, he said.

How much growth will occur from more people moving to the area is open to some question, based on the housing market, Watters said. A survey of Chambersburg and Greene, Guilford, Hamilton, Lurgan and Letterkenny townships showed 34 large developments approved, 16 in planning and another 23 being discussed, according to the study. The approved developments total 1,784 housing units, while those in planning come to another 3,000 and those under discussion could create an additional 3,500, it stated.

Watters said at least 1,000 homes will be specifically for senior citizens and retirees and not all the new units will be built within the next decade.

"Market forces can, of course, cause that to accelerate or decelerate," Watters said. The number of pupils per household, he added, has steadily decreased from about 0.8 per unit in 1970-71 to 0.325 per house now.

"The implication is that the financial plan we set up covered 10 years and the construction of two elementary schools," School Board President Craig Musser said. "We need to figure out a way to add another elementary school into the program" and that could mean higher taxes, Musser said.

Architect Paul Taylor of Crabtree Rohrbaugh and Associates said elementary schools will be at 99 percent of functional capacity in 2015-16 based on the current $116 million construction plan, which includes new Fayetteville and U.L. Gordy elementary schools and an expanded Hamilton Heights school.

Musser said he was less concerned with the high school enrollment projection of more than 3,100, even though a school for 2,800 students is planned. The figure does not subtract several hundred students who will be attending the Franklin County Career and Technology Center each day, those enrolled in alternative programs that take them out of the high school and the average daily absentee rate.

"It is extremely evident ... that we need to very efficiently move forward in building more schools to accommodate the tremendous growth occurring in our community," said Catherine Dusman, assistant superintendent for elementary services.

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