Timeline for school reconfiguration established

As the school board continues on a path to possible reconfiguration, there have been several questions about the timeline.

On Monday, Stephanie Snell said, “The board was in a hurry to pass this along and vote in May. Was your goal to implement this in the coming school year?”

There are some requirements at the state level that could play into what happens when.

The master facilities planning process has been in the works for years.

So far in 2023, the board has completed five steps – two work sessions, a series of interviews by Strategy Solutions of board members and district personnel, a public engagement session, and a community outreach session.

Step six is a public survey.

Superintendent Amy Stewart presented the proposed survey to the board on Monday and asked the members to look it over for changes.

“You want to get this out when?” Board Member Donna Zariczny asked.

“Soon,” Stewart said.

“The second question on the survey is ‘Who do you represent?'” Zariczny said. “This is for parents. This is for teachers… staff, business owners, elected municipal officials. Anybody that wants to fill out the survey… is able to.”

The surveys will be checked to make sure they are submitted by Warren County School District residents, but the results will be anonymous, Stewart said.

After the survey, there are public engagement sessions set for 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 18, and 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 9, both at the district central office.

There is a board work session scheduled for Monday, April 24.

The final step in the process is a “special board work session to make a decision” on May 22, Stewart said.

Most of the changes before the board could be enacted for the 2023-2024 school year, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE).

The district doesn’t want to allocate significant resources to establishing detailed reports for the transportation and finances involved in options that could be thrown out, according to School Board President Paul Mangione. “It’s really a catch 22 because the same people – parents and staff – that are asking for specifics and a time table are also saying to slow down the process and let’s not make a knee jerk decision. You cannot have both.”

“The board and administration are not going to spend a bunch of time on options that are going to be thrown out here in another few weeks,” he said. “Once there is a consensus things will potentially move very quickly to accommodate those dates and schedules.”

PDE rules regarding school reconfiguration include that the district must submit changes to the department no later than July 31 “to be effective for the coming school year.”

Also according to PDE, “In the event of a permanent closing of a public school or substantially all of a school’s facilities, the board of school directors shall hold a public hearing on the question not less than three months prior to the decision of the board relating to the closing of the school. Notice of the hearing shall be given in a newspaper of general circulation in the school district at least fifteen (15) days prior to the date of such hearings.”

Only one of the options that remains on the table before the school board involves the closing of any school building. Creating a K-12 center in Youngsville would leave one of two school buildings there unused. At both Eisenhower and Sheffield, where that change was made in the past several years, there was construction work related to bringing the schools together. The same would likely be true of Youngsville, Mangione said. “I would suspect that there will need to be building modifications to allow this to happen so this would end up taking the longest.”

Another proposal calls for no change.

The others include moving high school students.

Moving all high school students out of Youngsville, Eisenhower, or Sheffield, or shifting some students from Warren Area High School to those schools, would leave students in those schools and would not qualify as closing a school building to educational use.

“Because this is a reconfiguration and not a school closing, it’s an easier timeline to hit with the state,” Mangione said.

In terms of transportation, Mangione said a reconfiguration of Sheffield would be the easiest, because all students would go to Warren Area High School.

The Eisenhower and Youngsville options, because both involve the possibility of moving some students to Warren and the rest to the school which retains grades 9 through 12, would be more complicated, he said.


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