“This board has been absent without leave for the last several years.” This was said by a steel industry analyst about the accountability of the U.S. Steel Corp. board of directors, but it can also be said of the Indiana Area school board.
In 20 years, IASD enrollment has dropped 1,004 students: 647 less in elementary alone, even after sending sixth grade to the junior high. Because that school maintained three grades, it lost 361, and the senior high, by gaining the ninth grade, gained four.
Even the PIAA has noted the enrollment drop by moving Indiana football teams from Class AAAA to Class AAA, and barely over the Class AA cutoff at that, making outstanding teams difficult at best, lacking the numbers of many other Class AAA teams.
If three years ago fifth grade had been moved with sixth grade to the middle school, the elementary loss would still be about 430, more than any school had in enrollment this year. The middle school with four grades would still be a 150-student deficit, which shows that students of four grades fit the school’s capacity very well.
A fifth grade move with sixth grade in 2011 would have saved $3 million in budgets over the last three years, and $4 million instead of the first million if an elementary school is closed by September.
“Don’t eliminate neighborhood schools” was the battle cry against closing an elementary school in town. Now neighborhood schools have been eliminated with the board’s grade reassignment for September — pre-K to third grades bused to the White Township schools and fourth grade in one in-town elementary and fifth grade in the other. Both in-town elementaries will be one-half full, so approximately one-half of each school’s classrooms will be unoccupied.
The return of manufacturers like Fisher Scientific, Robertshaw, Syntron, Season-All, Campus Sweaters and King Leather will be required to dramatically increase student enrollment. If you believe it will happen, don’t just close a school, mothball it.
Lately the board seems to want to reduce teachers, reduce curriculum and cut back on health and physical education classes. What a short-sighted way to reduce costs and affect students’ learning. This is financial management at its worst.
The board is AWOL in its use of resources and it is costing taxpayers about 3.5 mills every year of delay. That’s what it costs a taxpayer to pay for an unneeded elementary school each year.