Rankin officials discuss school closure
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As the Woodland Hills School District considers closing Rankin Intermediate School in the fall, residents and elected officials are voicing concern about how the closure will affect the borough.
"As president of Rankin Borough council, the feedback I get from residents is they want this school to stay open," said William Price.
Last month, Mr. Price and council Vice President William Pfoff met with Woodland Hills Superintendent Walter Calinger and school board member Fred Kuhn to discuss how the closure would displace local students and could dissuade people from moving in.
"When you try to bring people in [a community], they look for schools. Now you're going to have a vacant building. And when you leave a building vacant, it becomes an eyesore that affects property values," he said.
With revitalization of the Carrie Furnace site in lower Rankin planned for this year, Mr. Price said he wanted to ensure the community stays on a path toward growth, and losing Rankin Intermediate would be a setback.
Dr. Calinger doesn't disagree with Mr. Price about the school's significance to its community, but said the state of the building may leave the district with little choice but to close it.
"My decision is not made on the basis of how well the school is run," he said. "It was based on which building presents the greatest number of problems over the next five years.
"In about five years, that building would have to be closed for renovation or replacement."
Dr. Calinger estimated the building would require about $18 million for renovation; district maintenance coordinator John Besseck said the district would spend around $16 million to rebuild the structure entirely.
He also said it was doubtful the building would be used for alternative purposes if the school closes because of its condition. If it closes, Dr. Calinger said the district most likely would demolish the building after a few years.
Dr. Calinger said no final decision has been made, and the board has until the middle of May to cast the final vote on the matter.
Mr. Price isn't so sure. He said he doubted the district needed as much money as claimed for improvements, and said he believes the school district "has [its] mind made up."
But Dr. Calinger also said closing Rankin Intermediate does not mean Rankin will never see another school building in the community.
"I wouldn't rule out we might want to put a new building in Rankin someday," he said.
First Published March 12, 2009 6:12 am