Tensions run high as Moon Area ponders school buildings' futures

| Wednesday, June 18, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Tensions are running high in Moon Area School District, whose nine-member board is slated to vote on closing Brooks Elementary School, renovating two other schools and reconfiguring elementary grades on Wednesday.

In three months of study of elementary school operations, the district's administration in March recommended that the school board close Brooks Elementary School as part of a capital improvement plan.

The district would spend $25 million to expand Hyde Elementary to the size of another building, Bon Meade Elementary, and renovate Allard Elementary.

Moon Area has five elementary schools.

There is excess classroom space because the transfer of fifth-graders to the middle school in 2012 left nearly two dozen empty classrooms, the district has said.

Proposed is a reconfiguration of grades so that Bon Meade and Hyde would accommodate only kindergarten through second-graders, and Allard and McCormick would house third- and fourth-graders.

Opponents argue the changes, if approved, would result in longer bus rides for children, siblings going to different elementary schools, and increased property taxes but reduced property values.

“I just think that there's a lot more information that needs to be gleaned before closing any school. And I'm not entirely convinced that our board has done due diligence,” said Moon resident Noah Eger, 44, the father of a 2-year-old girl and 4-year-old boy who live in the Brooks attendance area.

Board member Jerry Testa said he plans to vote against the capital plan and grade reconfiguration.

“There is no educational benefit for the children,” he said Tuesday.

Michael A. Hauser has said he would not vote in favor of the plan. Scott E. LaRue and A. Michael Olszewski, the board president, said they had not decided how to vote.

“We actually have eight more days to deliberate, and I sense that the deliberations will take that long,” Olszewski said.

Other school board members could not be reached for comment. Wednesday's meeting is set for 7:30 p.m. in the auxiliary gym of Moon Area High School.

Tory N. Parrish is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-5662 or tparrish@tribweb.com.

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