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CASD redistricting questions fielded

March 03, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Chambersburg Area School District administrators fielded dozens of questions on Tuesday during a session set up by the district's parent advisory council.

Many of those questions dealt with the ongoing redistricting process and how it will affect transportation, overcrowding and which schools will serve various communities.

Catherine Dusman, assistant superintendent for elementary services, said the completion of redistricting in 2011-12 could bring an end to an existing open-enrollment policy in which parents can select the elementary school they want their children to attend. Many choose schools in proximity to their baby sitters.

The policy was developed long ago because Stevens Elementary School would have had a disproportionately high number of black students, Superintendent Joseph Padasak said. The policy was meant to curtail the appearance of segregation, he said.

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Ending open enrollment would create a similar dilemma today.

"That's going to be a tough one," Padasak said.

While redistricting remains in preliminary stages, Padasak said it will likely end with one middle school for students living north of U.S. 30 and one middle school for students living south of the highway. Both would serve grades six through eight at what are now the Chambersburg Area Middle School and Faust Junior High School buildings.

"The middle-level child needs more opportunities. And we're overcrowded now," the superintendent said.

Administrators also want to create a ninth-grade academy within the high school to address those students' needs separately from those of older students.

"The children are going to be nurtured a little bit more than they will be in 10th and 11th grade," Padasak said.

Parents were able to write questions for the superintendent on index cards.

Several asked about the dropout rate and scores on standardized tests. One question specifically asked why students are being permitted to graduate if they don't score "proficient" or "advanced" on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) exams.

In the class of 2009, about 100 students otherwise eligible for graduation have not scored at least "proficient."

"If you're in my shoes, do you say they don't graduate because they're not proficient? They went through 12 years of our system and we have the special classes now," Padasak said.

The problems with meeting the state's benchmarks of "adequate yearly progress" come from subgroups of the student population. Groups like the economically disadvantaged and those in the English as a Second Language program don't post strong enough results, administrators said.

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