BILL BALINT: Closing East Pike school the best option
While closing an elementary school building has been somewhat discussed at the Indiana Area school board level since 2009, no action has yet been taken despite a K-5 level of 1,250 students that once was more than 2,000 including sixth grade.
School taxes have gone up 8 mills since 2009, and the board refused in 2012 to discuss a closing. I maintain that the taxpayers of this district have paid $3 million (11.5 mills) by failing to close an elementary building in 2011.
The first step was taken in two very successful moves of ninth grade to the senior high and sixth to the middle school.
The middle school, vastly under capacity, would easily hold fifth grade. Had the district decided then on a 5-to-8 middle school of 850 students in a 1,200-student building, the elementary school could have been closed, saving about 4 mills per year. Grades five to eight is a common middle school level in Pennsylvania.
Seventy-four elementary classrooms were required to house 2,000 students and even 1,400 students lately in kindergarten to sixth. Moving sixth grade vacated 10 rooms, and moving fifth grade would vacate 10 more. Isn’t dropping from 74 to 54 classrooms enough to give the taxpayers a break? Twenty vacant classrooms is more than the equivalent of Horace Mann or Eisenhower.
I suggest East Pike be very much considered as the school to close because:
1. By dividing kindergarten, first and second between Horace Mann and Eisenhower, walkers will be still able to walk to early elementary classes.
2. Putting third and fourth in Ben Franklin uses an already bus-only school.
3. East Pike will bring more budget relief since it is larger than Eisenhower or Horace Mann.
4. East Pike is an attractive school with lots of parking and may bring interest by other crowded school institutions such as Cambria-Rowe, Westmoreland County Community College, Seeds of Faith or Challenger Learning Center.
We know pension funds payable by the district will go up; teacher contract talks will add to the budget, not detract; academic cuts only go so far without affecting the students.
Please, board, examine the figures in light of what is good for the school and for taxpayers.