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Student placement at Pa. center disputed

July 14, 2010|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- School officials from Chambersburg and Waynesboro disagree on whether putting alternative placement students at the Franklin County (Pa.) Career and Technology Center would give the career center a bad stigma.

Waynesboro Area School Board member Leland Lemley told his board Tuesday that he fears a "detrimental impact" on the facility if a planned academic wing is used for alternative placements. He said he doesn't want the center to develop a bad reputation.

Chambersburg Area School Board is moving forward with a proposal to build the academic wing on the career center campus for its use. It submitted conceptual plans to the state.

The career center's owners -- its member school districts from the county -- could sell 11.6 acres to Chambersburg for the project.

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Lemley said he'd tell his fellow board members to vote against the land sale based on the planned use.

"We were told their intent at this point is to move 110 kids in from Manito," he said, referring to a company that provides alternative education.

Reached by phone after Waynesboro's board meeting, Chambersburg Area School Board member Stanley Helman said he believes there is a misunderstanding about his district's intentions. While nothing is finalized, Helman said the leading proposal would create space primarily for use by students who dropped out of high school and want to return.

The academic center would serve girls who had babies, students who need to work and students who struggle with the larger setting of the high school, Helman said. It would not be open to students expelled because they brought weapons to school, he said.

"That's an entirely different group of kids. ... From what I've heard, (the problem) is a reaction to the words 'alternative' or 'Manito,'" he said.

Waynesboro board member Pat Heefner serves on the career center's joint operating committee with Lemley and Helman. She said Chambersburg's current proposal does not match the initial intent it presented.

"We have grave concerns with moving forward with the sale to Chambersburg with these conditions," Heefner said.

Taking some students from Manito's instruction and providing those services in house would save Chambersburg money, Helman said.

"The students we're talking about putting in our academic center have no more safety issues than any other student out there now," he said.

Helman said Chambersburg expects to hear soon from the Pennsylvania Department of Education regarding the concept of its academic center, which is estimated to cost about $10 million.

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