Board hears public rumblings over closure

President Kelley Wasson explains the itinerary for the evening at the meeting about the future of Salladasburg Elementary school at Jersey Shore Middle School on Friday. KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

JERSEY SHORE — With an estimated $2.3 million deficit causing the school board to consider options for lowering it, the school district held its Salladasburg Elementary School closing public hearing on Friday.

The district is also considering the possibility of closing Avis Elementary School, which had its public hearing on Thursday.

The decision to close either school cannot be made until three months after the public hearings, according to Austin White, district solicitor.

Although Superintendent Dr. Jill Wenrich previously has presented options to the school board of building closures, program cuts or combinations of the two, her recommendation to the board is to close the two buildings and do a districtwide reconfiguration.

Kelley Wasson, board president, said that the public hearing was an opportunity for the public to share their comments regarding the school closures.

“There will not be, as there is during our regular meetings, a response through the FAQ process,” she said.

She said that information requests for documents could be made through the administration building. She said that the public may also request recorded sessions of the hearings.

Over 20 people spoke during public comment on Friday, and none of them spoke in favor of the district’s options with the deficit.

“This is supposed to be a public hearing about closing Salladasburg Elementary School, not for us to sit here for over an hour and a half listening to presentations from the administration that appears is already a done deal,” said Nancy Petrosky, area resident. “It seems you’ve been working on this for a very long time. Why isn’t the public afforded the same amount of time?”

Alicia Bilbay, area resident, said she had spoken at every meeting since November.

“You could be saving nothing from closing these schools, and it will be costing you money,” she said. “Our children deserve better.”

Brooke Wright, area resident, said that she was against the school closures.

“This is a terribly nearsighted recommendation that is bad for kids and taxpayers who have invested their hard-earned money for state-of-the-art facilities,” she said.

Many others asked for feasibility study results.

One community member said he understood the district had a hard decision that would not be good no matter what was chosen between school closures, program cuts, tax raises or a combination of all options.

“Which one of these bad decisions do you like?” he asked the public.

The record will be held open for each of the public hearings for 30 days for those not in attendance that wish to add public comments to the official record.

“If anyone wants to submit additional written information, they can do so by submitting that in writing to the district,” White said.

Comments will require names and current addresses in order to prove that they are from taxpayers of the district.

Wenrich clarified that the earliest the board can vote on closing the buildings would be April 25 and 26.

The updated facilities study results are scheduled to be presented at 7 p.m. April 9 at the administration building, 175 A and P Drive.

Present were members Wasson, Karen Stover, Merrill Sweitzer, Harry Brungard, Craig Allen, Michelle Stemler and John Pecchia. Members Mary Thomas and Christopher Fravel were absent.