District mulls closing school

JERSEY SHORE — A deficit budget may have dire consequences for students and teachers in the borough’s school district.

On Monday, the Jersey Shore Area School Board discussed the possibility of closing one of its three elementary schools, as well as making program cuts or a combination of the two, in order to reduce the district’s deficit budget.

Which school may close is unknown, but the board anticipates it could be either Avis or Salladasburg elementaries. The third elementary school is Jersey Shore Area.

During a presentation conducted by Superintendent Dr. Jill Wenrich, Assistant Superintendent Ken Dady and Benjamin Enders, business manager, the district acknowledged that the previously reported deficit for 2018-19 was over $1 million and sparked a conversation about how to best improve the negative budget.

While the district is uncertain of the best choice to make, Enders said closing a building would result in a lower deficit of $168,554.

The district also could choose to make program cuts districtwide or choose to do nothing.

However, Wenrich recommends some action must be done in order to fight the deficit.

“We have a fiscal concern that has been brought to the board. It is up to the board to determine how to move forward with that fiscal concern,” she said. “I have made a recommendation so that the district, at the end of the next four years, is not in a deficit, a negative fund balance. You have three choices. There are program cuts, building cuts or a combination of there of … We need to do something about the fiscal reality that we have.”

The district will discuss the topic in more detail on Jan. 8, when it will examine a proposed kindergarten through second-grade school in one of the elementary schools; on Feb. 12, for discussion on a proposed third-through-sixth-grade school at the middle school; and on March 12, on a proposed seventh-through-12th-grade school at the high school. The existing schools may be changing to absorb the proposed closed elementary school, if that is what the district decides. These meetings will take place at Jersey Shore Area Middle School, 601 Thompson St.

The board will vote on what to do about the situation on April 23.

According to the school district website, the superintendent and administrative team will hold an open forum from 6 to 8 p.m. today at the middle school library. The site says the event is open to “all community members who live within the attendance area of each school building” who wish to ask questions and share concerns.

Other forums are scheduled in 2018 for the three elementary schools.

Present at the meeting were Craig Allen, Karen Stover, Merrill Sweitzer, Christopher Fravel, Denise Smith, Mary Thomas, Loren Koch and Kelley Wasson. David Hines was absent.

The next school board meeting date will be Nov. 28 at the District Service Center, 175 A and P Drive.