Pa. school systems consider redistricting

December 12, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- Franklin County's two largest school districts both are looking to change attendance areas in coming years, but they are doing so in response to different needs.

The Chambersburg Area School District must address an increasing student population, aging buildings and students' diversity and educational needs, Chambersburg Assistant Superintendent Catherine Dusman said.

The Waynesboro (Pa.) Area School District has to address overcrowding, Waynesboro Assistant Superintendent Evan Williams said.

"I believe as we move forward with this redistricting, we can make it a positive experience," said Dusman, who oversees kindergarten to 12th-grade services.

Chambersburg plans to operate two middle schools starting in 2011-12. Dusman said one of the major goals of redistricting will be to ensure the populations of those two schools are similar in size and diversity.


"We're looking for areas to feed into those schools very easily," she said.

Chambersburg's redistricting comes after several years of administrative discussions and committee meetings. Waynesboro is in the beginning stages, as administrators and the school board talk about what to do with the four elementary schools.

In Waynesboro, 75 students who should go to Hooverville Elementary School instead attend Summitview Elementary School because of space constraints, Williams said. A few students at other schools also are affected by grade-level overcrowding at their home school, he said.

The Waynesboro Area School Board is talking about whether it would be cost-effective to move modular classrooms from the renovated high school to one or more elementary schools. The board asked for estimates for bricks-and-mortar school additions for a price comparison.

"We're at the point where something needs to be done. ... It wouldn't take too many kids in the wrong spots that we couldn't adjust," Williams said.

Williams said he doubts there will be a wholesale redrawing of boundary lines, but some changes might be necessary in the next five years to accommodate growth and targets for class sizes.

At least one additional teacher and class will be needed in 2010-11, he said.

Dusman said many Chambersburg-area families will be affected by redistricting, describing changes as a domino effect. The model of neighborhood schools worked well for decades, but the changes now are necessary, she said.

Chambersburg's next step will be to determine the futures of two of those neighborhood schools.

"There is much discussion right now about the facilities at Coldbrook and also Marion in regard to the capital improvements those schools need. ... Closing an elementary school is one of the hardest things to do," Dusman said.

Capacity exists in some of the newer schools, although it's being used for pre-kindergarten and Lincoln Intermediate Unit 12 classes, she said.

Chambersburg's enrollment is increasing at an average 2.5 percent per year, with 4,090 elementary students now registered. In Waynesboro, 2,359 elementary students are enrolled.

Both school districts try to accommodate parents who want their children to go to schools outside their attendance area because of child care. In Chambersburg, 23 percent of elementary students do not attend their home school.

The Chambersburg Area School Board soon will look at changes to the open enrollment policy that allows parents to choose alternate schools in the district, Dusman said. Possible changes include thresholds for attendance and tardiness, she said.

Chambersburg school officials also are awaiting implementation of new BusBoss transportation software that will allow them to manipulate attendance lines using computer models.

"There will be several phases for this entire redistricting," Dusman said.

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