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Laurel Point backers get 1 more try

Thursday, April 24, 2014, 12:51 a.m.

Kiski Area School District residents who want to keep Laurel Point Elementary School open have one more chance to let their voices be heard before the school board votes on the matter.

School directors will vote on Laurel Point's closure at a special meeting May 5. That meeting will follow the board's7 p.m. budget meeting.

Before the vote, both residents and school directors will have opportunity to comment on the situation.

Officials say a decision hasn't been reached regarding Laurel Point.

The board was scheduled to vote on the Parks school's closure on Wednesday but moved the vote to May 5 to avoid violation of state law, officials said last month. A school board has to wait 91 days after a public hearing before voting to close a school.

Instead of the vote, school board members heard comment from a number of residents Wednesday night. In addition, Rep. Joseph Petrarca, D-Oklahoma Borough, asked the board to consider other options.

“This is a great district, and that's an exceptional school,” he said. “I just hope the board thinks about ways to save this school as they move forward with their districtwide plans.”

Vandergrift resident Karlin Miller brought a letter from the Armstrong County commissioners in support of keeping Laurel Point open. The letter asked the school board to “explore every possible avenue.”

The elementary school, Miller said, has produced many successful individuals.

“There's a lot of success stories from Laurel Point,” he said.

School board member Ann Marie Nagy was one of several board members who responded to concerns. She said the Laurel Point supporters' concerns weren't falling on deaf ears.

“I understand the emotional draw that's coming for all of you,” she said, adding that her children had attended another school that Kiski closed, Bell-Avon Elementary.

She said the board has been going through a “long, meticulous, thought-out” process when considering options at Laurel Point.

“Sometimes, there's a big picture that has to be looked at,” she said.

The proposed closure is part of the district's reorganization efforts and has been on the table for several years. The plans spring from efforts to streamline costs by consolidating elementary schools.

The district has already closed its Washington and Bell-Avon elementaries. The Bell-Avon school building just sold for $35,500.

Kiski is still accepting bids for the Washington Elementary building.

That latter is housing kindergarten through fourth-grade students through the end of the school year while renovations take place at the former Vandergrift Elementary, which is now Kiski Area East Primary School.

Among reasons cited by those opposing the closure are the school's importance to its community, its departure's potential impact on property values, as well as its reputation. Laurel Point was recognized last year as a National Blue Ribbon School.

Kiski Area's success, Superintendent John Meighan told residents, isn't limited to a single location.

“Whatever happens, we have outstanding schools and outstanding teachers,” he said.

Julie E. Martin is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.



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