Not so fast

YHS students confront school closing talks

Photo courtesy of https://www.wcsdpa.org/YHS Three Youngsville High School students addressed the school board with their concerns regarding preliminary discussions involving the possible future closure of the building.

A preliminary discussion of the possibility of closing a high school hit home with some of the students who attend that building.

After reading that school board members had brought up the possibility of looking into closing Youngsville High School during a special meeting last week, YHS juniors Amber Evans, Olivia Nuhfer, and Sadie Hoffman addressed the school board during Monday’s committee meetings.

“We are treated like dollar signs on a page and not the individuals we truly are,” Nuhfer said.

When she read about the discussion, “My heart sank. I knew I could not let this place be carelessly thrown away.”

The idea to close the school, which the board said would not even be a possibility until the 2020-2021 school year, would result in the students being “split up and put away, apart from our friends, without having a say,” Nuhfer said.

“Our school is worth saving,” she said, and she “will fight… until there is no more fight left in me.”

Any closure would not happen while those students are at the school, but it could impact their younger friends and siblings.

“I feel like the school board looks at us like dispensable products at a dispensable building,” Hoffman said. “We care about this school and we have pride in it.”

“Shutting down this building would tear people’s lives apart,” she said. “I would be devastated if Youngsville High School closed.”

“I’m proud to be an Eagle just like any other kid is proud to be a Dragon, a Knight, or a Wolverine,” she said.

“There are a lot of us trying to show you how much talent we have… and how much dedication we have,” Evans said. “We got the highest Keystone scores in the county.”

“As a community, we’re doing great,” she said.

Evans pointed out that none of the board members reside in the western attendance area.

“I know we don’t have Youngsville representation on the board specifically,” she said.

The Youngsville schools are in Region 3, which includes the western and northern areas of the county. The three Region 3 representatives live in the northern attendance area.

Later in the meetings, the board revisited the issue indirectly.

According to Director of Business Services Jim Grosch’s five-year projection, the district’s fund balance will be gone after the 2022-2023 school year.

“As the years go on… 2023 and 2024… when we enter the dark era, at what point do we have to do something that is undesirable?” board member Jeff Labesky asked.

Administrators did not say schools would have to be closed, but said changes would have to be made.

“We know that there are some big changes that have to occur,” Superintendent Amy Stewart said. “We haven’t really changed what some of the schools look like yet.”

“We know that kids don’t want to leave their small schools,” Stewart said. “We can’t keep doing what we’re doing. Offering three tracks of English to 30 kids is not sustainable.”

She said she has seen small schools in rural settings that are having success and her building administrators are ready and willing to do what it takes to stay vibrant.

“We’re going to have to start making changes quickly,” Grosch said. “There are going to have to be significant changes within the district within the next year or two. I don’t know what they’re going to be.”

When he talked about closing Youngsville High School a week ago, board member Joe Colosimo referred to declining enrollment as “the 800-pound gorilla in the room.”

With the budget problems only growing, board member Paul Mangione suggested the board should be looking at its problems and any potential solutions.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen in Harrisburg. Somebody could pull the rug out from underneath us within the next couple years,” Mangione said. “I would like to get those 800-pound gorillas out of their cage, let them walk around a little bit, get to know them,” so “we won’t be painting ourselves in a corner moving into the future.”

Discussion of closing Youngsville High School was set aside for months, but not until the next budget season when it will be too late to initiate any action.

It looks like there will be many more students in the building next year. Moved forward into the proposed final budget were items that only save the district money if the western attendance area’s middle school students are moved from Youngsville Elementary Middle School to Youngsville High School.

Athletics funding

Another budget item that was discussed last week was athletics.

Fully funding the district’s athletics programs would have added $262,000 to the expenditure side of the budget. Board members debated that possibility at length.

In the end, that item failed to make the grade and will not be included in the final proposed budget that the board will consider on May 13.