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Chambersburg board votes to close Duffield Elementary

February 07, 2007|by DON AINES

FAYETTEVILLE, Pa. - Every surviving teacher who ever taught and every student who ever learned at Duffield Elementary School will have a last opportunity to walk its halls this June before the aging building closes its doors for the last time.

On Sunday, June 3, those who attended and taught at the school may relive their school days at what is being billed as the "Farewell to Duffield Open House," said Sue Kohler, who is helping organize the event.

"Right now, we're looking for people to lend us memorabilia and photos," Kohler said.

Following a brief public hearing Tuesday night, the Chambersburg School Board voted unanimously to close Duffield at the end of this school year. The students next year will go to the new Fayetteville Elementary School now under construction about two miles away.

Tuesday's hearing was something of a reunion in itself with about 60 people, many of them former students, in attendance at the New Guilford Brethren In Christ Church. Among them was Jay Knepper, who was a student when the building opened 77 years ago.

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"I attended the old one and the new one," Knepper said, referring to a two-room schoolhouse that served the area before Duffield was built in 1930. He confessed to being "a little mischievous. I wasn't a teacher's pet. They watched me like a hawk."

"This is great to talk to a man like this," said JoAnn Young, a former head teacher at Duffield. Young has been doing research on the school and took notes while talking with Knepper.

A list of Chambersburg Area School District buildings stated Duffield was built in 1922, but Young said that could be the result of some confusion with an earlier two-room schoolhouse nearby.

Young, who taught at Duffield from 1972 to 2005, said an old article she found in the Franklin County School Annual of 1930 indicated there were concerns about the earlier building's structural stability.

The "new" Duffield consolidated it and three one-room schoolhouses, Regional Principal Paul Sick said. When it first opened, Duffield taught grades one through eight with two grades each in four classrooms, he said.

"I was there when she started," said Raymond Wingert, whose family farm bordered the school. "I never thought I'd live to see it torn down or closed."

School board member Fred Rice told Wingert that the district's plan for now is to try and sell the property, not demolish the building.

"My roots are here, man," said Rice, who went to school at Duffield and has two grandchildren enrolled in its final year. "We need to move on sometimes ... I understand why it's happening."

One reason is to better serve special-needs students, Rice said. A small school might have just a few such students, meaning the district has to shift specialists from one building to another to meet their needs, he said.

There also is a need to reminisce.

In her 33 years as a third-grade teacher at Duffield - 20 as head teacher - Young said she taught more than one generation from some families.

"It was like a family," she said. "We knew each other."

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