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In an era when doubling down, instead of doubling back, is the norm and not the exception, it was refreshing to see the River Valley School Board do some back-tracking and reconsideration.

The school board, on April 6, made the recommendation to reduce the budget of its $14 million athletic stadium during a building and grounds committee meeting — a move that officials say could save the district $3 million to $5 million on its proposed athletic stadium costs.

But was it a decision based on current economic conditions or a lack of bids for the first and second phases of the project? School board president Rick Harper was quoted in a recent story saying, after only one contractor submitted a bid that was in excess of the budgeted amount, “It appears we’re going to go back and see if we can change a few things to get some other contractors to bid on phase 1 and 2.”

We’d like to think it was a little bit of both and a matter of rethinking the entire process based on need instead of want.

One of the recommended changes by the buildings and grounds committee was removing the large group instruction room for staff training and professional development from the field house, along with rolling back plans on building a new baseball and softball field next to the new complex. Plans to construct the football field, bleachers, track and concession stand appear to remain unchanged.

Of course, the district planned to have the athletic stadium complex ready to roll for the upcoming 2023-24 school year, but it now appears that won’t happen, leaving school officials to question where its athletic teams — namely the football squad — will conduct practices and play its home games.

The way we see it, a good faith gesture may be to split the games between available facilities in Saltsburg and Blairsville. One of the major complaints from the Saltsburg side of the fence is the tendency for the school board to make decisions that favor Blairsville.

Another option may be to conduct practices in one of the communities and play its home games in the other. Both schools have facilities that can handle the task while things are being worked out with the athletic complex.

The stadium project has been a point of contention for more than a year as some members of the board strongly disagree with building a stadium during a time of high inflation and tight budgets, fearing the cost will eventually lead to higher taxes, even though school board President Rick Harper has said taxes will not be raised as a result of the stadium project.

Adding more fuel to the fire was the discovery in November 2022, during the school district’s finance committee meeting, that the original $7 million ballooned to $14 million. That prompted the board to adopt a $10 million bond resolution to help fund the complex’s additional costs.

The new complex will be built near the current high school in Blairsville, which, again, set off the folks in Saltsburg who must travel — much like students do — to Blairsville for activities and events that could, with some budgetary finesse, be balanced between the two communities.

Since that November meeting, according to Superintendent Phillip Martell, the district has seen a 3 percent increase in student enrollment, which prompted the buildings and grounds committee to cut stadium costs to reinvest in educational programs and school infrastructure.

“These shifts, along with rising construction costs and economic conditions, have compelled the district to re-evaluate the original plans for the athletic complex,” River Valley officials stated via a news release.

Harper added this: “Though the district is financially capable of completing the athletic complex as initially planned, the reality is that adjusting the project’s scope will better serve our students and community.”

Putting the students first is always a good move — mainly because it’s the board’s No. 1 job. It’s also what the minority side of the school board (the Saltsburg folks) have been wanting all along. Using the $3 million to $5 million in projected cost-savings for the classroom is an intelligent decision and we commend the school board and school officials for that line of thinking.

But now, more must happen. Civility. Compromise. Good-faith working relationships across the divide, so to speak.

Fresh off a remarkable run by the girls’ varsity basketball team to the state championship game in Hershey, this is the perfect time to mend fences and continue to come together for the good of the students at River Valley. Finding some common ground with the athletic complex would be another step in that direction.