JERSEY SHORE - For a time Tuesday night it looked like the Jersey Shore Area School Board just might reverse its decision last month to keep open Avis and Nippenose elementary schools.
School directors spent much of the meeting arguing back and forth about shutting down either or both and renovating and expanding Jersey Shore Elementary School.
Architects from Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates, of Mechanicsburg, answered questions about the $13 million building project.
But when the board voted to schedule a hearing at which time the closing of schools once again would be considered, the vote was 5-4 not to hold that special session.
Harry Brungard, Denise Smith, Harry Miller, John Shireman and Karen Stover voted against the hearing.
Shelley Helm, Heather Williamson, Robert Pryor and Craig Allen voted in favor.
Shireman said closing even one of the schools would bring additional vehicle traffic to Jersey Shore Elementary School as a result of students transferring there.
Shireman was told by Paul Taylor, director of Educational Architecture for Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates, that a traffic study is being conducted by the borough.
The study is to consider traffic with respect to the school's capacity, which after renovations and expansions, will be 800 students.
The school now has about 500 students.
Pryor called for closing schools.
He said he ran for school board to keep a close eye on taxpayers' dollars and to ensure quality education for students.
He added that nobody wants to close schools, but rising maintenance costs and dropping enrollments make it the only prudent decision.
"We don't want to let our constituents down or our students," he said.
Brungard said closing schools would not alleviate other costs.
Allen called for scheduling the hearing to consider closing schools.
Helm agreed and eventually made the motion that the board take a vote on the matter.
Taylor responded to various questions about the building project.
He said once a land development study is approved, construction could get under way by this fall and be completed by spring 2014.
He said the project includes plans for redesigning vehicle drop-off and pickup of students.
Construction will include new heating and air conditioning, lighting, windows, roofing and improvements to plumbing.
A number of residents questioned the board.
George Shroat said the district lost $580,000 in grant funding by not closing schools.
He accused the board of failing to take care of existing facilities and spending too much on athletics.
Shireman responded that the board actually has reduced spending for sports.
Julie Steinbacher questioned if the board was basing its decisions on good information.
Keith Barrows, of Porter Township, questioned keeping four elementary schools open when they all are under capacity.
Barrows, executive director of the Lock Haven University Foundation, also told the board it borrowed millions of dollars for a building project without having all the information it needed.
School directors held an executive session to consider personnel matters following the meeting.