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Future of Stevens Primary School discussed at hearing

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Correspondent Williamsport Area School District Superintendent Dr. Timothy Bowers, middle, and school board members take a tour of the Stevens Primary School in February.

The fate of a nearly 100-year-old Williamsport school was the focus of discussion at a public hearing this week.

Williamsport Area School District officials, an architect and concerned residents gathered in the auditorium of Stevens Primary School to consider the options.

Public comments will be received by the district for the next three months, at which time the school board must then decide what direction to take with Stevens.

“We really are anxious to hear from the public,” Superintendent Dr. Timothy Bowers said. “Does it make sense to apply money to this building or have a new building?”

Scott Cousins, project manager of Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates, a Mechanicsburg architectural firm, noted it would cost about the same — between $20 million and $23 million — to either renovate Stevens or build a new school on the site at 1150 Louisa St.

The other option is to simply close the school constructed in 1926.

He pointed out that Stevens is in need of a number of upgrades or improvements

Windows, floors, food service and gymnasium equipment are in need of replacement. Other problem areas are plumbing, the HVAC system, fire alarms, roofing, doors and lighting.

Stevens lacks an adequate drop-off site for students, a code-compliant auditorium and space for science and STEM instruction, Cousins said.

Should the school close, overall curricular and instructional services will not be diminished, according to Assistant Superintendent Dr. Susan Bigger.

Although students from Stevens would be redistributed to other schools, individual classroom sizes would not greatly change, if at all.

Cousins said that Stevens and other school buildings in the district have excess capacity to absorb additional students.

“You have more space than you need,” he said.

He noted that the population of the district has been in a steady decline that is expected to continue, if perhaps stabilize, in coming years.

Boundaries of primary schools would likely be realigned should Stevens close, according to Dr. Richard Poole, director of student services.

He provided numbers to show how a closing would impact student body sizes at the other primary schools: Cochran, 424 to 500; Hepburn, 284 to 410; and Jackson, 472 to 530.

District Business Administrator Wanda Erb said a closing would mean additional busing costs for the district, but reduced costs in other areas.

Several people spoke up at the hearing.

Sarah Decker said the future of Stevens matters to many people.

She asked why renovations weren’t done to the school long ago when it was known the building had issues.

A resident of Louisa Street said she liked the idea of a neighborhood school.

Bowers said people can submit comments about Stevens on the district’s website.

They can also come to board meetings to provide comment.

Board President Lori Baer said the board will ultimately be faced with a very tough decision.

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