JERSEY SHORE - For the second time in as many school years, parents and taxpayers asked the Jersey Shore Area School Board to spare one of its elementary schools Thursday during a public hearing.
Nippenose Valley Elementary School was at the center of discussions because the board recently selected the school to potentially close.
"This community cannot be separated from its neighborhood school," resident Kris Wacker told the board.
Parents and concerned citizens follow along with handouts during a PowerPoint presentation Thursday at a public hearing the Jersey Shore Area School Board held to listen to comments on the proposed closing of Nippenose Valley Elementary School.
Jersey Shore Area School Board members look on and listen to public testimony during a hearing at Jersey Shore Area High School on Thursday. No decision has been made on the proposed closing, which school district officials say could save the district more than $450,000 in its first year. Parents have vowed to pull their children out of the public school system if the closing occurs.
Jersey Shore Area School District Superintendent Richard A. Emery answers a question for Adrienne Stahl, of Limestone Township, left, during Thursday’s public hearing.
Jersey Shore School District Superintendent Richard J. Emery on Thursday presents information he says the school board must consider before making a decision to close Nippenose Valley Elementary School.
Some of those who spoke during the hearing mentioned the many activities and services the school provides for the community. Some said that if Nippenose does close, the district should expect to see a rising number of students transferring to other educational opportunities.
Amy Lorson, parent of a student attending Nippenose, said that if more students choose cyber and charter schools, the district would not see any savings from closing the school. "Instead, it would mean additional expenditures," she said.
During a presentation, Superintendent Richard Emery noted a cost-savings estimate of $460,920 for the first year and $514,085 during following years.
Emery cited rising costs in health care and retire-
ment, along with flat funding in special education and no funding for charter schools, as some of the reasons cuts are needed.
The district has a $820,422 budget deficit for the 2013-14 school year, but, as of yet, no tax increase.
Many members of the public wanted more answers on the construction and addition project under way at Jersey Shore Elementary School.
Rich Severino, of Crawford Township, asked the board to reconsider going forward with the addition to the school. He noted that the addition has gone from 30,000 square feet to about 15,000 square feet, while also costing more.
"The addition is half the size and $1.4 million more," he said.
Raye Bierly, of Porter Township, also asked the board to reconsider the addition, which she said only is needed if a school is closed.
Burt Francis, borough resident, said the board constantly puts "the cart before the horse." One example of this practice, he said, is that the board is set to vote on bids for the project but will not know for 90 more days whether additional students will be attending the school.
The state requires school boards to wait three months after a public hearing to vote on closing a school.
How the project would affect students' education was not the only concern, though. Adrienne Stahl, of Limestone Township, was worried about the students' health.
Emery said that interior asbestos removal during construction of Jersey Shore Elementary would take place during the summer. Exterior asbestos still could be removed during the year.
"This isn't about my taxes. It's not about my child's education. It's about my child's health," Stahl told the board.
George Shroat, a parent, asked the board to consider closing its administration building, as an alternative to a school closing.
"That's something that could be put on the chopping block," he said.
During his presentation, Emery said the district is out of options. He said without closing a school, programs would need to be cut.
"We're basically out of tricks," said Emery, adding that staff and athletic cuts already have taken place in previous years. "We're now looking at cutting programs."
Board members Harry Brungard and John Shireman were not present at the hearing.
Residents have 30 days to submit a written comment to the district to be added to the meeting's public record.