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Connellsville school board invites public to feasibility meeting

| Sunday, June 8, 2014, 6:36 p.m.

On Wednesday, the Connellsville Area School Board will host its first meeting in which the public will get to learn more about the district's feasibility study, recently completed by Eckels Architecture and Construction.

The meeting, open to the public, will be held at 6 p.m. in the high school, one hour prior to the board's regular meeting at 7 p.m.

Board President Jon Detweiler said a feasibility study on district buildings was needed since one had not been completed since the district reconfigured its grades a few years ago.

“Now the junior high is just seventh and eighth grades, and the ninth graders have moved up to the senior high,” he said. “Our district is set up differently than what it was, so we asked John Pappas (with Eckels) to have their company go in and gather data — look at all the buildings — leave the board out of it, and tell us what you see.”

The feasibility study presented to the board originally included seven options for the future of district buildings. The options included closing or reconfiguring schools or doing nothing more at this point.

The study addressed the issue of where to put the administration offices: Leave them at Connellsville Township Elementary School or move them to another location.

Board member Paul Means said the purpose of the meeting, which is just the first, is to begin the conversation and listen to input from the public, teachers and officials.

“We wanted to have a meeting that was very informal where individuals could present ideas or ask questions without the time constraints of the public comment period of the regular meeting,” he said.

Future meetings are scheduled, Detweiler said.

“I would imagine this first one will just be an overview discussion of the district as a whole,” he said.

The options in the feasibility study included keeping all of the buildings open as is with no significant improvements; renovating five of the district's seven elementary schools and building a new district office at Connellsville Township Elementary; closing South Side Elementary and relocating those students to Connellsville Township where a new district office would be built; closing Dunbar Borough Elementary and relocating those students to Dunbar Township; renovating Clifford N. Pritts Elementary and adding a gymnasium; and various combinations of those options.

The board recently was presented with an eighth option that called for redefining the current grade grouping and reusing the school buildings in the district to match the new grade groupings that breakdown as K-4; 5-8 with the creation of an East and West middle schools; the high school grouping would remain unchanged with 9-12.

The eighth option calls for the closing of Dunbar Borough, South Side, Clifford N. Pritts and Connellsville Township elementary schools; finish renovations at West Crawford Elementary; and reopen and renovate Zachariah Connell Elementary.

The board last month agreed to accept sealed bids for the possible sale of the former Zachariah Connell building and land.

The building had been declared unused and unnecessary property within the district, and the district has been authorized to sell it.

Sealed bids on the property are being accepted until 10 a.m. July 31, when they will be opened.

Rachel Basinger is a contributing writer.

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