On April 10, the Southern Tioga School Board rejected bids for the proposed $30+ million North Penn High School/Blossburg Elementary School renovation project. In a related action, the board hired an independent firm to complete a feasibility study that will look at all options. These actions were motivated by the second year of huge budget shortfalls and the prospect of possible, if not probable, bankruptcy of the district in just a few years.
The STSD Board of Education is to be commended for these tough decisions. However, more tough decisions must follow. STSD is a geographically large school district with many children riding on a bus for up to two hours every day. Yet, as of January, enrollment was just 1,984 students in three K-6 elementary schools and three 7-12 junior-senior high schools. In the fall of 2001, total STSD enrollment in the six schools was 2365 students. That is a decrease of just over 16% in the past ten years. A 2006 feasibility study determined building capacity in STSD to be 3,052 students. Our buildings are at 65 percent of capacity. With decreasing enrollment comes decreased state funding while building maintenance costs do not decrease. Budget shortfalls have resulted in staff furloughs, cuts in educational and extracurricular programming, and an inability to provide adequate instructional materials.
While closing school buildings is not easy for anyone concerned, STSD taxpayers cannot afford to fund buildings that are not nearly filled, nor can they afford to build new buildings that are not needed. The school board has the responsibility to choose to spend tax dollars for educational programming and not on new buildings in a district where enrollment has decreased by over 16 percent in 10 years. STSD Board of Education: It is time to make a tough decision. It is time to make the right decision for the students and the taxpayers in our district. Otherwise, enrollment will continue to decline and our schools will fail the remaining students.
Submitted by Virtual Newsroom