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$20 million elementary school opens in Chambersburg

December 02, 2008|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- The Chambersburg Area School District's newest school, Benjamin Chambers Elementary, opens Wednesday, replacing two schools and opening up classroom space in a third.

The $20 million school has a capacity of 600 students, but will have an opening day enrollment of 412, said Principal Gladys Leon. Named for the borough's founder, the school was built over the Franklin Street site of the former U.L. Gordy Elementary School, which was demolished to make way for the project.

When Gordy closed, those students were transferred to Fayetteville Elementary while construction was under way, Leon said. Those 152 students will be coming back from Fayetteville, opening seven classrooms at that school, said Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Services Catherine Dusman.

Another 152 students will be coming from Mary B. Sharpe Elementary, which is closing after more than 100 years, said Leon. About 100 more students are coming from King Street Elementary, which is being closed and sold to King Street Church, she said.

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A few more students from the neighborhood who went to parochial schools after Gordy closed also will be coming to Benjamin Chambers, Leon said.

The opening reduces the number of elementary schools in the Chambersburg Area School District from 16 to 14, Dusman said.

Students were brought in last week for orientation, which included a scavenger hunt to help them get acquainted with the building, Leon said. Each was given a bag bearing the school's name to bring over the belongings from their desks, she said.

The school has four classrooms for each grade, a computer lab on each floor, a large library, and a multipurpose room to serve as a gymnasium and auditorium.

"I'm excited to see the King Street (students') reaction and the Sharpe reaction when they get here," said Librarian Chris Barnabei.

The school's best feature?

"I think having more space," said Leta Long, a library remedial aide, who is going from a 100-year-old school to one just opening its doors. "It was really cramped at Sharpe and the library was really small."

"It looks like a cost-effective, improved learning environment," said Chambersburg School Board member Carl Barton.

Though the metal roof was more expensive, Barton said it will be less prone to leakage and last substantially longer than traditional rubber roofing.

"The other thing I like is it came in below its estimated cost by $2 million or $3 million," Barton said.

"This is my first tour of duty," said Leon, who had been the district's English as a Second Language coordinator. "I will be so excited when the kids come tomorrow."

Leon and many of the staff of 57 teachers, aides, maintenance and support personnel worked over the holiday weekend to get furnishings and equipment from the other schools.

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