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School district to evaluate elementary school options

The Montoursville school board voted to conduct a feasibility study Tuesday to evaluate their options in renovating or consolidating their elementary system.

Scott Cousin, senior project manager at Crabtree, Rohrbaugh and Associates, said during his presentation that it would cost $7.2 to $8.4 million to update Loyalsock Valley Elementary School and bring it up to modern standards.

Although the educational architecture firm specializes in designing effective schools, it’s ultimately up to the district to determine how they’d like to use their funds.

The study would cost about $5,000 to $8,000, he said.

David Shimmel, board member, said an updated feasibility study would tell the school board how best to spend their money.

“We have a wide range of things we could do,” he said. “We have to think education first, from the standpoint of our elementary system.”

Options range from consolidating schools, dividing the grades between several of the schools or renovating the schools to some degree.

“There’s a lot of ways we can do this, whatever we want to do, we really need a feasibility study,” he said. “It’s going to tell us the impact of any option we look at, and it’s going to tell us the impact on education.”

Though Shimmel said he has a “bias toward community schools,” should consolidating one elementary school prove to produce better education, “then that’s what it is.”

Consolidating would “unify the community, and parent-teacher organizations,” which can be competitive at times, he said.

Dottie Mathers, board member, said she wanted to spend the taxpayer’s money intelligently.

“I wouldn’t want to spend $7 to $8 million on a bandaid only to discover that there was something else that we could have done to better support education,” she said.

With education’s emphasis on technology, Susan Beery, board member, said consolidating the elementary schools may eliminate duplication services or expensive equipment.

There is, however, no set ways that school districts handle multiple elementary schools, said Cousin.

“There really is no trend,” he said.

The studies done on the matter show that there isn’t any clear indication that it affects the quality of education the students get, he added.

“It’s really based on the culture of the communities and how they adapt to the environment,” said Cousin.

Before going to vote, the board opened up the floor to the public.

“When this study is done make sure it’s adequately communicated to the community,” one audience member said. “I would hope the board would be open to that and would move forward with a bit more transparency to the public.”

Shimmel said the board would be in contact with Crabtree, Rohrbaugh and Associates to determine what options the feasibility study should focus on.

All members were present.

The board is next scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Jan. 28 at Montoursville high school, 700 Mulberry St.

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