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Scotland student working to save boarding school

June 04, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

o 'Every teacher I know at Scotland School wants to stay'

SCOTLAND, Pa. -- Matthew Haberle feels as if he's losing his home and his school.

Matthew is an eighth-grader at Scotland School for Veterans' Children. He enjoys math, aced all his finals and recently honed his letter-writing skills when asking legislators to keep his boarding school open.

Thursday was the last day of classes for Scotland School. The unanswered question, though, is whether they were the last classes of the academic year -- or forever.

"I already started crying today," said Matthew, 14.

In February, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell proposed closing Scotland School for Veterans' Children as a way to save $13.5 million a year in the state budget. State Rep. Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin/Cumberland, introduced a bill to keep the school open until the options can be formally studied. However, other legislators say few positive signs remain for the 114-year-old school's funding to be included in the 2009-10 budget.

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"My initial reaction was, 'How could this be happening?'" Matthew said.

The boy, whose sister is in 11th grade at Scotland School, remembers rumors about the school's potential closing one February morning.

"They called us into the auditorium at 8:30 and made it official," he said.

Matthew's father's service in the U.S. Navy qualified the children for admission to the school, which offers nine months of classes and housing for third- through 12th-graders whose relatives have served in the military. Rendell's office says $45,000 is spent on each student annually.

Matthew stayed in the classroom after school hours to work on 445 letters, saying he "knew it was something I had to do." He's been receiving an average of three responses a day from legislators across the state.

"They're saying stuff like, 'I'm glad you shared your concerns,'" Matthew said. "They say, 'I'm also a supporter of Scotland School.'"

Matthew and his sister, Crystal, move out Saturday and will return to Monroe County, Pa., in the Pocono Mountains. There, the family will complete paperwork in hopes of enrolling Matthew in a Lancaster County, Pa., boarding school. He'd prefer to remain with his "Scotland family" and referred to the other school as an "emergency" plan.

Classmates, many of whom hail from Philadelphia, are applying to charter schools, boarding schools and public schools. Most packed their belongings and left Scotland School after classes ended Thursday.

"From what I hear, there's a lot still waiting" for acceptance notices elsewhere, Matthew said.

Matthew entered Scotland School in third grade. Crystal started there in fourth grade.

"She's in shock," he said.

His first plans for summer vacation involve making fliers to distribute near home in support of Scotland School.

"I don't think enough people around the state have heard," Matthew said.

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