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Efforts fail to keep Scotland School open

October 08, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Jean Vargas and other Scotland School for Veterans' Children teachers called their former students Wednesday evening to tell them the fight to keep the boarding school open has failed.

"They were crying on the phone," Vargas said.

Scotland School supporters traveled to the Pennsylvania capital almost every weekday since June to plead for funding in the state's 2009-10 budget. Gov. Ed Rendell identified the 114-year-old boarding school north of Chambersburg as a cut during his budget address in February, saying $13.5 million a year could be saved.

On Wednesday, supporters learned funding for the school was not included in the latest spending plan being prepared for the governor to sign.

The school served third- through 12th-grade students who had a relative with military service. Scotland School for Veterans Children originally opened for orphans from the Civil War.

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Former superintendent C. Frank Frame oversaw The Foundation for Scotland School for Veterans' Children during its efforts to secure a future for the school.

"We've basically given up the cause," he said.

Vargas said state Rep. Bryan Barbin, D-Cambria, attached an amendment with Scotland School funding to a table games bill. Although Vargas said she appreciates the support, she has little hope it'll pass in the Senate.

"We're definitely disappointed," Vargas said.

"I don't know of anything we could've done differently. It was an uphill fight from the beginning," Frame said.

State Sen. Richard Alloway II, R-Franklin/Adams/York, said his focus must now be on finding a new use for the property. He said he doesn't want it to be vacant and not contributing to the economy.

"There is no funding in either the House or Senate budget for Scotland School," Alloway said.

The House made slight adjustments to the latest spending bill, then sent it back to the senators for their agreement. The budget is 100 days overdue.

Scotland School supporters will continue to explore other options, including federal funding that would open the doors to children from across the nation.

"We're very stubborn, and we're not going to give up that easily," Vargas said.

Meanwhile, Frame will be dissolving the foundation in accordance with nonprofit organization regulations.

"I don't know if Scotland School as it was will ever be again," he said.

Vargas said the supporters wearing red shirts became such a fixture in Harrisburg that the security guards recognized and welcomed them each day. Several legislators commented on their dedication.

"There's never been a group that's done this. People usually have rallies and leave," she said.

Ten of 40 Scotland School teachers found other jobs, Vargas said. Students enrolled elsewhere before the start of the 2009-10 academic year, she said.

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