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Moon Area School District parents worry about possible elementary school closings

| Wednesday, July 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

As Moon Area school officials prepare to discuss new reports on the district's enrollment and buildings, some parents are worried about possible elementary school closings.

“I'd like the community to be involved in the process,” Basel Masry, whose three children attended Allard Elementary School last year, told the school board on Monday.

But board members told about 25 parents of elementary students that they won't discuss possible changes at any of the five grade schools yet.

“I want to make clear that no decision has been discussed or made,” board President Sandra McCurdy said. The board has “no preconceived notion” and won't accept comments on the reports until all aspects are made public, she said.

The board is expected to release the reports Aug. 14, with one or more meetings after that.

Board member Dennis Harbaugh, chairman of the facilities committee, said this week that no changes would be made for the upcoming school year. He said he understands parents' fears, but that they will be involved in the decision-making process.

A Moon Area demographics report by Stewman Demographics' Shelby Stewman, a professor of demography and sociology at Carnegie Mellon University, has been posted on the district's website.

The study offered a scenario in which student enrollment was expected to increase from 2 to 26 percent over the period from 2012 to 2022 at four of Moon Area's five elementary schools.

The one exception to the trend was Allard Elementary, in the northeast section of the district, which includes Moon and Crescent townships. Stewman predicted the student population in that area bordering the Ohio River would drop 26 percent over the 10-year period.

Harbaugh said a facilities study by consulting firm Stantec gave five options for district buildings. Harbaugh said the options range from keeping all five elementary schools open to closing up to three of the schools.

“This year, we had 23 empty rooms,” Harbaugh said, the result of moving fifth-graders to the middle school in the 2012-13 school year.

Additionally, the Allard and Hyde buildings, both more than 40 years old, need renovations and repairs, with Brooks Elementary School not far behind in its needs, Harbaugh said.

Board member Laura Schisler said the facilities study isn't complete yet. Harbaugh said the district's administration would have to figure out staffing for each option, and the business manager would have to project the costs for each.

Masry said he's concerned “that if you close one elementary school, there's going to be a domino effect that would affect any child in the schools.”

Resident James Bogatay, who has three children, including an Allard student, said he's concerned about a lack of transparency in the information-gathering process.

“They allowed people to panic,” Bogatay said.

Sandra Fischione Donovan is a freelance writer.

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