As a 90-day waiting period approaches its final days, the fates of three Williamsport Area School District elementary schools soon will be revealed.
Round Hills, Sheridan and Stevens elementary schools are being considered for closure. The decision to close two of the three schools is part of a districtwide consolidation that will result in four elementary schools for grades kindergarten through third, two intermediate buildings for grades four through six, one middle school for grades seven and eight - at the site of the former Roosevelt Middle School - and one high school for grades nine through 12.
Before consolidation began, the district was configured with six elementary schools for kindergarten through fifth grades, three middle schools for grades six through eight and one high school for ninth through 12th grade.
Although one school will remain open, two of the buildings will have their doors close permanently following the final bell of the next school year.
The district's school board and administration have heard the facts and arguments for and against each building since the board announced March 20 that it would look to close two buildings.
The decision will be determined by looking at each building's enrollment and financial concerns, according to district administration.
Ultimately, the decision will be up to the nine board members who can vote on closures starting July 16. School boards are required to wait 90 days after a public hearing on school closures to take action.
Board President Lori Baer said with a little less than a month until the board can vote on closures, she and other board members still are going through the information presented and gathering answers.
She added that her final decision will be made with the entire district in mind.
"My decision is going to be based on an overall picture and what's best for the district," she said. "I think that's important. I can't let one group of people (persuade me)."
Thomas Zimmerman is keeping the reconfiguration in mind when coming to his decision on how to vote.
"The whole issue for me centers around the most efficient and logistically correct way to position this new structure we're putting into place," Zimmerman said
The "grand scheme" is changing for every building with a shake up of the district, according to board member Karen Harris.
"It doesn't matter what school stays open or closes, no building will remain the same," she said.
Harris went on to say that it's difficult to take her personal feelings out of the vote.
"One of the hardest things to do when you're on the board is to make unbiased decisions. You need to consider the entire district," she said.
Dr. Jane Penman, board member, said the board needs to further discuss the issues. She said there are some aspects of the decision that need to be dealt with.
"I think as a board we need to discuss it. We have not had any discussion as a board (since the public hearing)," Penman said.
Board member David Stone Jr. said with the vote coming up, the board needs to look at what works with the direction the district already is going. He said it has a plan with the reconfiguration.
"I think we'll look at what the costs are and how it really fits into the overall plan," Stone said.
Future to be costly
With renovation and construction costs in the millions for whichever building remains open, Baer said money will need to be spent no matter what.
"Doing nothing will cost taxpayers money. Whether we keep buildings open or close them will cost taxpayers money," she said. "That's why I say we have to look at the district overall ... We're going to be spending money no matter what we do."
Board member Jerene Milliken also said the board has a "fiscal responsibility" to the taxpayers.
"I think that we have to go with whatever proves to be the best option," Milliken said. "It would be irresponsible to make a decision that would cost the taxpayers (more than it needs to)."
Stone isn't sure money will be a factor right away though.
"The real question is how soon will that money have to be spent," he said.
He explained that renovations may be postponed for a year or two.
Board member Dale Vollman went a step further, saying that he believes the three elementary schools not being discussed for closure could house all students and the district doesn't necessarily need to keep any of the other three open.
When polled, most board members were about 70 percent sure how they will vote when the time comes. But for some, they still need time to go back over the information provided by both the district and public.
Milliken hasn't made up her mind yet on what her vote will be but believes she will be ready when the time comes.
"I am confident that I will have a clear-cut decision when it is time to vote on this," she said.
Baer said she's just going to keep looking over the information until the vote happens so she can make the most informed decision possible.
"I'm just trying to keep an open mind," Baer said.
Stone, Penman, Shultz, Vollman and Zimmerman all said they were pretty sure how they would vote but wouldn't disclose which option they would choose.
Harris declined to say if she had made her decision yet.
Stone added that whichever decision the board makes, it will be for the "greater good." He also emphasized that "the district is really made up of students and staff, not buildings."
"I think it's safe to say no one's looking at this lightly," Zimmerman said.
Board member Brette Confair did not return a call seeking comment.