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Chambersburg board considers school options

Joseph Padasak, superintendent of the Chambersburg Area School District, said the School Board favors two high schools for its s

Joseph Padasak, superintendent of the Chambersburg Area School District, said the School Board favors two high schools for its s

August 11, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Chambersburg School Board still is trying to reach a consensus on its secondary school building program and decide whether a 78-acre parcel in Greenvillage, Pa., should be the site of a new middle or high school.

The board discussed options Wednesday night, and which one emerges as the favorite could depend on district programs for alternative education and at the Franklin County Career and Technology Center.

"We're still in favor of two high schools," Superintendent Joseph Padasak said Thursday.

Padasak presented an outline of the district's building needs at Wednesday's board meeting that included Chambersburg Area Senior High School and Faust Junior High School serving as high schools for about 1,100 students each in grades nine to 12; an alternative education program for about 500 students at another location; and 500 students at the career and technology center.

Chambersburg Area Middle School would have about 1,000 students in grades six to eight, as would a new middle school in Greenvillage, according to Padasak's plan.

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Padasak said Thursday, however, Faust does not have enough land to be reconfigured as a high school. He said he could support a middle school at Greenvillage if it one day could be converted to a high school, as was done in Mechanicsburg, Pa.

"I think everyone agrees two high schools will work ... I think they would rather build a middle school," Padasak said of the board.

"The majority of the board is leaning toward two high schools," Board President Craig Musser said. Whether the second high school should be at Faust, Greenvillage or an expanded academic wing at the technology center remains in question, he said.

"What I want to see is a new middle school in Greenvillage," board member Paul Ambrose said. Faust should be used for ninth grade and alternative high school education programs, he said.

The high school could accommodate, as it does now, grades 10 through 12, while the district increases enrollment at the technology center, Ambrose said.

"Dividing it up it up like that, CASHS will not be overcrowded," Ambrose said. It also is the less expensive option, he said.

"I think it gives us the most options," board member Stanley Helman said of a new middle school. "We have to be able to know what we're doing at the vo-tech before we finalize what we're going to do at the nine-through-12 level."

"Right now, I'm leaning toward the middle school," board member David Sciamanna said. An expanded career and technology program, however, is important to the final decision.

"If we do that, coupled with everything else on that list, then we don't need two high schools," Sciamanna said.

Business Manager Rick Vensel said the district has about $71 million in borrowing capacity left from the $116 million the board agreed two years ago to borrow for its construction program. About $8.5 million of that is needed to finish construction of a new U.L. Gordy Elementary School, leaving about $62 million.

With that money, the district still plans to build or expand four more elementary schools, according to Padasak's outline.

The district will have to incur more debt to complete the entire building program, Vensel said, but how much it may borrow could be limited by Act 1, Pennsylvania's latest school property tax reform law. Tax increases above an inflation index set by the state would, in some cases, have to be approved by voters, according to the law.

Musser said the district will need to borrow an additional $40 million to $50 million to complete its building program.

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