Parents and area residents filled the Wyoming Area Secondary Center cafeteria on Thursday, March 29, for the public hearing on the question of the possible closure of the Sarah J. Dymond Elementary School (SJD) or John F. Kennedy School (JFK).
The school board is currently considering the possibility of closing one, or both, of the neighborhood elementary schools in an effort to combat an expected shortfall the district will face in the 2012-13 school year.
"I want to emphasize that it's just a possibility," Wyoming Area School Board Vice President Estelle Campenni said of the school closings.
"Despite what you may have read, or heard, nothing has been decided."
Nothing will or can be decided until June, or 90 days after Thursday's hearing, when the board is allowed to vote on whether or not to close either school.
The purpose of the hearing was for the board to outline the five options, or scenarios, they are currently discussing, and give those in attendance a chance to voice their opinion on the subject.
Superintendent Raymond Bernardi presented the five options.
The first option is to close SJD, turn JFK into a kindergarten center, Tenth Street Elementary would take grades first through third, and Montgomery Avenue Elementary would take grades four through six; the second option is to close JFK, turn SJD into a kindergarten center, Tenth Street takes grades first through third, and Montgomery Avenue takes grades fourth through six; the third option is to close SJD and merge it with Montgomery Avenue; the fourth option is to close JFK and merge it with SJD; and the fifth option would be to keep the four schools open and eliminate three classes.
Beranrdi estimates that the savings in the first year would be $341,135 for option one, $241,920 for option two, $268,945 for option three, $176,986 for option four and $99,225 for option five.
While these scenarios would create some savings for the district, several members in attendance feel it may not be worth the potential damaging effect closing a school can have on the students.
If SJD or JFK were to close it could create longer bus rides for a number of students.
"Research, and common, sense will show that longer bus rides will have an impact on our youngsters' well being," said Jodi Weiskerger, Falls.
"Research, including surveys and interviews of family and children, shows that children will be fatigued and it will cut into their recreation time."
Weiskerger was one of several members of a parents' group made up of parents with students currently enrolled at SJD who are opposed to the possible closing.
In addition to the longer bus rides, the group is also wary of the negative effect transforming these schools from neighborhood schools to centers, as outlined in options one and two, may have.
"Center base schools have shown, in research, a decrease in parental influence and involvement, and children who have longer bus rides also have a decrease in school attendance," said Weiskerger.
The parents' group also called the idea of closing a school a temporary solution to the district's financial problems and not a long term one. They also questioned if the savings would be as great as estimated.
John Bonin offered the suggestion, on behalf of the parents group, of having the teachers in the district begin contributing to their benefit payments to help with the district's financial problems.
The board will now take the information under advisement as they continue to discuss what actions they will take.
The board will continue to listen to comments from the public at its monthly meeting. The school board's next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 27, at 7 p.m. in the Secondary Center auditorium.
The board is also accepting written submissions on the subject.
Written submissions can be sent to the Secondary Center, 20 Memorial St., Exeter, PA 18543.