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Career center takeover plan goes to board tonight

May 30, 2007|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Chambersburg Area School District administration's plan to take over ownership and operation of the Franklin County Career and Technology Center by the 2008-09 school year will be presented tonight to the School Board.

The plan also will be presented Thursday night to the center's Joint Operating Committee, made up of school board members from the Chambersburg, Waynesboro, Greencastle-Antrim, Tuscarora, Shippensburg and Fannett-Metal school districts, Chambersburg Superintendent Joseph Padasak said.

Padasak said the board could take action on the plan tonight, but there is opposition among some board members.

"I don't think there's going to be any action on it" tonight, Board President Thomas Orndorf said Tuesday.

"I'm not sold on how we can fund it without a referendum," he said, referring to Act 1 restrictions that limit how high taxes can be raised without voter approval.

The plan calls for the district to spend up to $47 million to redesign, renovate and expand the center in stages to a capacity of 1,500 students in grades nine through 12. Chambersburg students would take both academic and career courses at the center, with the other districts sending 400 to 500 students on a tuition basis.

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"We'll look for a four-year student guarantee from each district. In turn, we'll give them a price per student," Padasak said. The more students enrolled, the lower the per-student cost, according to the plan.

"I can't predict how many of our students will opt into it" or how many students other districts will send to the center, Orndorf said. Paying for capital improvements is one issue, but if enrollments fall below projections, operating costs could be difficult for the district to bear, he said.

Chambersburg would create a comprehensive academic school with programs for college-bound students, career technical education, alternative career education for academically and behaviorally at-risk students and a service occupation program for special education students. The center's 21 technical programs - from agricultural mechanization to plumbing - would be expanded to more than 30, according to the plan.

Enrollment, which has declined in recent years, currently is 808 in grades 10 through 12, with 329 of the students from Chambersburg, according to the plan. The center's current staff would become employees of the Chambersburg Area School District with additional employees hired as necessary, according to the plan.

"Assuming our board approves it Wednesday night," Padasak said, the plan will go to the Joint Operating Committee, whose members then would take it to their respective school boards for consideration.

"We'll ask the boards to consider it in principle" by July 1 and recommend any changes, Padasak said. A one-year transition team then would be created, he said.

The school actually is owned by the six-member Technical School Authority created by the districts in the 1960s.

"We'd like all the districts to bless this before we ask those six gentlemen to make a decision," Padasak said.

Orndorf said he wants to see how many other districts buy into the plan.

Other than the takeover plan and maintaining something like the status quo, Padasak said a third option is for Chambersburg to pull out of the center.

Under that scenario, the district would give the center a year's notice and create its own career and technology program, possibly in unused industrial properties in the district, Padasak said. In three years, he said, the district could have a "full-fledged program" costing about same as the district now pays to the center, about $2.5 million a year.

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