Parents speak out against plan to close Pine Forge school

DOUGLASS TWP., Pa. - Monday marked the first day of school for students in the Boyertown Area School District, but at Pine Forge Elementary School, this could be the last first day.

The school board heard Monday from administrators and parents at a public hearing about whether to keep Pine Forge's doors open.

Parents told the school board why they want to keep the school in Douglass Township up and running.

"I believe closing Pine Forge would affect all students in some capacity," one parent said.

The hearing was the next step in the process of voting to shut down Pine Forge Elementary, which, administrators said, is in desperate need of repairs and only filled to about 60% capacity.

Superintendent Dana Bedden said the debate over whether to keep the school open has been going on for years, and he said the lack of a decision is actually hurting the school.

"We've had constant turnover," Bedden said. "People are so uncertain about whether the school's going to stay open or close that we keep losing teachers."

But concerned parents and community members said they worry shutting down the school could mean long commutes for kids, overcrowded classrooms and potentially higher taxes.

"It's going to be a longer bus ride for them starting earlier, ending later," community member Betty Burdan said.

"If you choose to vote for scenario two, you are knowingly fostering an achievement gap," a parent said.

Bedden said the school is the oldest in the district and renovations would be costly. He also said a potential closure would not necessarily leave current staffers without jobs.

"We have vacancies throughout the district," Bedden said. "Does that mean everyone's going to be lined up perfectly to what they're doing now? I can't guarantee that, but we do have a number of vacancies."

"No, Dr. Bedden, in the end, it's not about the efficient use of our buildings. It's about our students, our children, our future," a parent said.

The board is accepting written comments through the end of September and is expected to vote on the closure at its last meeting in November.

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