Public reacts as JS school closing is set

JERSEY SHORE – The Jersey Shore Area School Board on Monday took the next step in a potential elementary school closure, setting a public hearing at the high school for 7 p.m. March 14.

The board voted to re-open discussions on possibly closing Nippenose Valley Elementary School at its last meeting.

But before any decision is made on a closure, the public asked for answers from the district.

When asked if the district was looking for a closure to happen during the current school year – the district must wait at least 90 days after a public hearing to decide on closing a school but can wait longer – Superintendent Richard Emery said he would address that during his presentation at the hearing.

Adrianne Stahl, of Limestone Township, said those affected by the decision deserve to know if they will be moved next school year.

“I feel like Nippenose parents and teachers have the right to know that,” she said.

Borough resident Burt Francis commented that he doesn’t see a tax relief or educational benefit to closing the school and going forward with a construction project at Jersey Shore Elementary School.

He asked that the board consider only renovating the elementary school and not do any additions, as is planned. This decision will affect generations to come, Francis said.

“Do we the people have the right to put a financial burden on our children and grandchildren?” he asked the board.

The impact has him worried.

“I never came to a school board meeting … with such a heavy heart and heavy concern for where (the district) is going,” Francis said.

Joy Clester, of Bastress Township, asked the board a variety of questions pertaining to the potential school closure and upcoming construction project.

She asked how any potential savings on a closing was calculated, if the project still could be completed by September 2014 and what would happen if the project wasn’t reimbursed by the state, among others.

Many members of the public noted that during courtesy of the floor, school board members seemed “bored” and exhibited bad body language when they heard the comments.

“Some of you seem a little irritated,” said Susane Zell, a mother of a kindergartener.

Zell and Laura Miller, of Bastress Township, raised concern over younger students potentially riding the bus with older ones. The public also was worried about fourth- and fifth-grade students at Jersey Shore Elementary attending the middle school next school year during construction.

“It is a lot to worry about,” Miller said.

Zell said the school board must protect students who are bullied.

“What are you going to do to protect our children?” she asked the board.

Even board member Harry Miller said he pulled his son out of the district and enrolled him into a cyber school because of bullying issues.

Although most members of the public who spoke during courtesy of the floor were against the closing of a school, Carol Homler, of Porter Township, said they do not speak for all residents.

She said she isn’t in favor of closing schools but also wants to keep educational programs intact.

Francis believes that if the district and public work together, a solution can be found.

“If we can work together we will help you make the right decision,” he said.