MILL HALL - The doors have barely closed on the 2011-12 school year, and Keystone Central School District officials and staffers are already busy preparing for the big moves next year.
The district has plans to close two elementary schools and an administration building, and has sold its technology-tax office building in Flemington, all of which require two major efforts for all those buildings, according to Superintendent Kelly Hastings.
During last night's meeting - which had a very sparse agenda - Hastings told the school board the staff members are busy gathering files and filling boxes, "thousands of files and boxes."
Last May, the administration unveiled a plan to close Sugar Valley Elementary School. The students now attending that school will begin attending the Mill Hall Elementary School beginning in the 2012-13 school year this fall.
The administration's activities will be moved into a wing of the Central Mountain High School in Bald Eagle Township.
Barry Hackenberg, supervisor of maintenance and property services, said the general contractor, Spearly Construction of Bellefonte, is already busy retrofitting rooms in the Central Mountain High School for conversion to office space, a process that's expected to take four to six weeks.
Hastings commended staff members for all the work they've already accomplished to prepare for the move, and Board Chairman Jack Peters said he believed the staff and administration is capable of rising to the task.
The school board voted last November to transfer the Lamar Township students to Mill Hall Elementary School beginning in the 2012-13 school year.
The school board members said the schools fell victim to several factors, including a decreasing pupil population, state policies that have emptied the board of budget options, and expensive and unfunded mandates handed down from on high.
Last month, the Keystone Central School Board approved a final, no-tax-increase budget for the 2012-13 school year. The $64.9 million budget included several retrenchments of 14 teaching positions along with the closing of the schools, and drew down on the district's reserve fund.
A related plan to relocate administrative offices from Flemington and Penn Center buildings to Central Mountain High School also was approved by the school board.
Administrators have estimated the district will save $142,000 yearly on building costs including utilities, some $42,540 yearly in maintenance costs, about $102,633 in decreased yearly costs associated with support staff, and the elimination of two professional staff positions for a yearly savings of $89,665 each.
At Thursday's meeting, Business Manager Kim VanGorder said a preliminary look at the state's allocations for Keystone suggest that the district might receive about $350,000 more from the state budget than anticipated.
Hastings said most of that increase in an otherwise flat state budget allocation is arriving in the form of restoration Pennsylvania Accountability Grants. (The purpose of this grant was to urge districts to create support positions to boost student achievement or to implement early intervention educational strategies, particularly full day kindergarten.)
The current plans call for KCSD to maintain K-5 schools at Robb, Dickey, Mill Hall, Woodward and Liberty-Curtin, and close Lamar Township and Sugar Valley Elementaries.
In other matters:
The board designated its legal consultants for the coming year, including Dorothy Bollinger as consultant in matters involving internet, technology and copyright law; Andrews Beard as legal consultants for special education issues; and David Lindsay and Donald L. Faulkner as general school district solicitors.
Hastings said two local solicitors were chosen to ensure the district has legal representation should any scheduling or legal conflicts arise.
Faulkner's appointment came without a supporting vote from board member James Knauff, who pointed to a flap over his vote for a contract several years ago, and added that Faulkner provided a legal opinion at the time that did not reflect the law.
Bollinger will be paid $155 an hour, Lindsay and Faulkner will receive $130 an hour and Andrews Beard will receive $125 an hour or $155 for litigation, all the same rates as last year.
The board approved minor changes or state required adoption of policies involving data breaches, electronic communications devices and copyright policy, all on first reading.
Bills in the amount of $1.6 million were approved for payment.
Approval was given to furlough Robin Crawford, secretary at Sugar Valley Elementary School, as a result of the transfer of students from that facility.
Approval was given to hire individuals to work during the summer months for property services.
Kirsten Russell was employed as advisor to the Bucktail Marching Band at a salary of $2,461.
The retirement of Kenneth J. McCauley, a supervisor with 21.4 years of service, was noted.
Joseph Hanna, assistant football coach at Central Mountain Middle and High schools, resigned from that position.