Moon Area feasibility study options include closing outdated elementary school

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The main question on the audience's mind at a recent Moon Area School District facilities meeting was whether the district will close one or more of its aging elementary school buildings.

Ideas on what the district should do with its elementary facilities and an abundance of empty classrooms took center stage Sept. 23 during the second such gathering sponsored by the district.

The meeting opened with an overview of a feasibility study that presented six solutions to those issues as presented by Stantec Architecture and Engineering.

The options receiving the most flak and concern from Crescent and Moon residents were the shuttering of one or two schools.

Targeted in the study are the J.A. Allard, J.H. Brooks and R. Hyde schools -- two of which have had limited or no upgrades in years. According to the study, Allard and Hyde will require immediate renovation. Brooks, which was renovated in 1995, would require some work.

Bon Meade, which was built in 1959, was renovated in 1977 and 2000. McCormick, built in 1968, had additional work in 2007. Allard also was built in 1968, followed by Hyde in 1971.

School Director Gia Tatone referred to future board decisions as being on a "learning curve" in which the district needs to "move forward and not make mistakes of the past."

There are "challenges ahead as to how we deal with two schools that are in need of major renovations," said Mrs. Tatone. "Personally, I can't understand how these two schools have not been addressed over the past two decades."

Attendees were interested in hearing answers to questions they already had broached during the August facilities meeting. School directors and Stantec's Rob Pillar, who was in charge of the meeting, said there would be a question-and-answer session this month at the high school, but no date has been set.

School director Denny Harbaugh said the board was hoping to gather feedback from residents on which direction to go. He said closures could not be implemented without a series of public hearings.

Those in attendance were asked to provide cost-effective solutions for better use of space, possible use of funds that would become available through closures and their concerns with consolidating elementary programming.

Directors are hoping to find alternate solutions to the issues.

"You don't know if there is someone in the room that can crack the code," said Mrs. Tatone.

Mr. Pillar said the questions were designed for input on how best to "right-size the school district."

Residents from the Allard school attendance area -- traditionally a walking area -- expressed concerns with the future status of their school. In four of the six scenarios provided by Stantec, Allard is listed as being repurposed.

"Allard parents are especially attached to their neighbors and their school," said Jennifer Broderick, an Allard parent with students in 10th, seventh and fifth grades. "I don't see the logic in closing a school with so many walkers."

She said she sees the district's empty classrooms as an opportunity, suggesting an expanded library and a dedicated science lab at Allard. According to the study, there are 14 unused elementary classrooms in the district -- none are listed from Allard.

"There are things that you can use these rooms for," said Mrs. Broderick.

Parent Michael Baker is concerned that the information being used to make the decision is inaccurate and worries the closure of any building would force some children to ride the bus for as long as 40 minutes each way.

He said his fears are "that kids are being treated like widgets, not children" in regard to transportation.

Several residents suggested the district order additional studies before deciding.

"When you are dealing with somebody's kids, I expect the emotion. I expect the passions," said Mr. Harbaugh. "I have an elementary student, too."

Information regarding the school facilities study and a demographic study by Stewman Demographics LLC, which includes enrollment projections can be found at http://www.moonarea.net/14/about.

A Facebook page, "Save Moon Elementary Schools," which was started by residents, has more than 430 members discussing the issue.

education - neigh_west

Sonja Reis, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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