Jersey Shore board shuts doors at Nippenose Valley Elementary

JERSEY SHORE – When schools open across the county in about two months for the start of a new school year there will be one less building as the Jersey Shore Area School Board voted Monday to close Nippenose Valley Elementary School.

The board voted 7-2 to permanently close the school prior to the 2013-14 school year. This is the second straight year that the school board voted to close an elementary school. But unlike last year’s vote that spared both Avis Elementary and Nippenose, this time Nippenose was not spared.

Before the vote, board member Harry Brungard said despite his personal support for keeping Nippenose open, he would vote the way his constituents wanted, which was to close the building.

New board member Loren Koch disputed Brungard’s claim, saying that she’s spoken to “hundreds” of constituents who wanted to the school to remain open. Brungard and Koch represent the same region of constituents.

The public comments

before the vote were mixed with each side receiving support.

Julie Steinbacher, of Limestone Township, asked that if the school was closed what the board would do to ensure every student receives a quality education. Two of Steinbacher’s three children attend Nippenose and to see larger classes hurts students. Class sizes only would increase by closing a building, she said.

She compared students to sardines when describing classroom conditions.

In response to comments made by Amy Lorson, of Limestone Township, John Shireman, a borough resident and former board member, said that families who choose a charter school over the district would be hurting taxpayers.

“It’s going to be the taxpayers that foot the bill,” he said.

Lorson reported to the board that there were 159 parents interested in taking their students to a charter school if Nippenose was closed. She said having their children educated in the Nippenose Valley was important to many families.

Steve Helm, of Piatt Township, asked where the many supporters of the school were as there were fewer than 150 people present at the meeting.

Adrianne Stahl, of Limestone Township, responded by saying that many believe the board already had made its decision before the vote. She added that the decision seemed to come down to more “money reasons” that what was in the best interest of students.

But Carol Homler, of Porter Township, disagreed, saying that if the school remained open, it would force the district to cut programs and activities.

“We need good common sense, to me it’s as simple as that,” Homler said.

Board members Denise Smith and Koch were the two votes against closing the school. Voting in favor of closing it were Craig Allen, Robert Pryor, Karen Stover, Harry Miller, Heather Williamson, Brungard and Shelly Helm.

After the meeting, Superintendent Richard Emery said the district created two plans for the summer depending on how the vote went. The district now will create two committees, one for kindergarten through third grade and another for fourth and fifth grades, to address concerns and solutions for the transition of students to Jersey Shore Elementary School. The committees will consist of parents of both Jersey Shore and Nippenose Valley, administrators and at least one school board member.

And although the board still has to vote on which budget option to accept, Emery expects that this decision will give it direction.

Emery previously gave the board three budget options: raising taxes past the Act 1 Index, raising taxes and making about $250,000 in cuts or closing a school and making $60,000 in cuts.