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Marion, Coldbrook elementary schools to remain open for now

November 18, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- "If it's not broke, don't fix it."

The phrase was uttered more than once Wednesday at a Chambersburg Area School Board meeting as a diverse group of people -- from elementary school students to adults with grown children -- emerged from a sizable crowd. They lined up at a microphone to protest the possible closing of Marion Elementary School, Coldbrook Elementary School and the Franklin County Career and Technology Center's academic center.

Ultimately, the board decided not to close Marion or Coldbrook at this time. It did not discuss the academic center, but the district spokeswoman said that was an administrative decision already finalized.

Some board members said they didn't have a clear enough plan regarding what would happen if the elementary schools closed. They lamented not being able to use a new, computerized transportation program to examine the effects until February 2010 at the earliest.

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"I'm disappointed we don't have quite the information we need to make a decision like I'd like to make," board member Renee Sharpe said.

Assistant Superintendent Catherine Dusman described a district-wide "domino effect" that would occur as Marion and Coldbrook students moved to nearby schools, bumping some students already there into other schools near their homes.

Parents said they didn't want to lose smaller, neighborhood schools. Some identified school quality as factors in their home-buying decisions.

"If you decide to close this school, this will cause an overpopulation problem at other elementary schools. The value Marion Elementary brings to the community and school district is something a dollar figure can never be put on," said Michele Myers of Front Street.

"I guess you have to decide whether an old-fashioned system where parents have a close connection with a small school is worth it," said Steve Schoonmaker of Moosic Drive.

"I have went there, my brother went there, my pappas went there, and they don't want the school to be closed either," said Clayton Fahnestock, a fifth-grader at Marion.

Diminished revenue streams have caused the district to make many cuts, but savings still have been depleted to less than $2 million in a district with more than $100 million in annual spending. Administrators say Marion needs roof repairs and window replacements, and Coldbrook needs a new heating system.

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