STROUDSBURG, Pa. - At an information session Wednesday night, Stroudsburg area school district families expressed overwhelming disapproval of a proposed plan to shut down two of the district's elementary schools.
Facing increasing challenges in balancing the budget, the district claims that closing both Ramsey and Clearview elementary schools would create annual savings totaling over $617,000.
An alternative plan in which only Ramsey is closed would be expected to cut expenses by $246,000.
The facility discussion period, though intended to provide practical information to families about the potential consequences of the move, turned into a nearly two hour long venting session for those frustrated with the proposal.
"I truly don't understand the need to rush into this decision that has clearly been an unpopular one," said one parent in attendance. "An entire community is telling you that this is a short-sighted decision on many levels."
Numerous community members cited a messy transition period, prolonged transportation times and a growing Stroudsburg population as reasons they opposed the move, claiming that the school board was favoring small monetary relief over students' education.
Some school board members took exception to this, saying that the rising cost of charter schools and lack of funding from the legislature had made it increasingly difficult to balance the budget without cutting staff.
"Six-hundred seventeen thousand dollars is [equivalent to] seven teachers [salaries]," said board vice-president Bruce Stewart. "That is a perpetual savings. That $617,000 over 10 years is over six million."
Stroudsburg Superintendent John Toleno, who gave the informational presentation and fielded questions from the audience for a majority of the night, estimated that the savings for the two closings equated with a 1.5 millage increase avoided by the district.
Toleno also outlined the redistricting such a move would cause.
If both schools are closed, their students in kindergarten and first grade would be moved to Hamilton, Morey and Arlington elementary schools and grades two and three would transfer to the IES.
Meanwhile students in grades four through seven would move up to the middle school, grades eight and nine would shift up to junior high and grades 10 through 12 would go to the high school.
The superintendent claimed that the massive redistricting plan would be avoided though if only Ramsey is closed.
Under this plan students from Bridge Street would transfer from Morey to Hamilton, students from Fifth and Hawthorne would transfer from Clearview to Morey, while Bridge Street, West Main and Garden students would all remain at Morey.
Several parents voiced concerned that either plan would result in excessively long bus rides for students, but Toleno maintained that the district intended to keep travel times short.
"Our goal is to provide the transportation services that limit our students to 45 minutes [of bus time]" he said.
While the discussion carried on for hours, school officials say they have yet to decide the fate of the schools.
"No decision has been made" Toleno said.
"There has been some interest" said Toleno of the Morey Elementary building, "one [inquiry] by the housing authority and one from a local church."
Clearview meanwhile has drawn the interest of Stroudsburg Township, which would like to see the building converted into a community center with the school district keeping property rights.
Stroudsburg school officials say they will use the input to continue to evaluate their options.
Allentown, PA 18102