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Graduation might be Scotland School's last

June 06, 2009|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

SCOTLAND, Pa. -- It was hard to tell Saturday morning if this was the last graduation at the Scotland School for Veterans Children, a campus nestled in a quiet corner of this small Franklin County town.

With Pennsylvania facing a $2.5 billion budget deficit, Gov. Ed Rendell in February proposed closing the school as a way to save $13.5 million per 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.

Among those affected are the school's 265 students in grades three through 12, about 45 teachers and another 90-plus employees.

It was difficult to tell Saturday morning from the enthusiasm of the 32 seniors in the class of 2009 as they marched into the auditorium for the school's 114th commencement that their school, home really, could cease to exist after this summer. Their families and friends echoed the same feelings as they watched the graduates -- boys in red gowns, girls in white -- file into their seats up front in the big auditorium, much of which was filled with spectators.

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The stage, too, was crowded with dignitaries, including Ronald D. Grandel, the school's principal; retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Cecil Hengeveld, the graduation speaker; and representatives of area veterans' organizations and the school's board of trustees, many of whom were on hand to present gifts and awards to deserving graduates.

In all, seniors in the class of 2009 received more than $62,000 in scholarships, awards and gifts.

Hengeveld, a native Pennsylvanian and retired deputy adjutant general of veterans affairs for the state, supervised veterans' assistance programs for the state's 1.3 million veterans and their dependents, the commonwealth's six veterans homes and the Scotland school.

He reminded the graduates he doesn't remember his high school graduation speaker nor do his daughter and granddaughter. As a result, he promised to keep his comments short and memorable.

Scotland students all live on campus. Six of Saturday's graduates have lived and learned at the school since they came in as third-graders.

Kevin Cramsey, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, said about 70 percent of the school's students come from the Philadelphia School District, another 10 percent from the Philadelphia area and the rest from around the state. The average annual enrollment over the years was 315 students.

The school was built in 1895 to educate children of the men and women who serve and have served their country in the military since the Civil War.

The state consolidated the dozen or so remaining Civil War-era children of veterans' schools into the school. It was called the Pennsylvania Soldiers Orphans Industrial School and later renamed the Scotland School for Veterans Children.

Currently, only six of the current crop of students are children of actively deployed service personnel, Cramsey said.

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