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Editorials

Amid financial crisis, Highlands must keep public informed

| Tuesday, May 15, 2018, 12:06 p.m.

Can someone please crack open the door at the Highlands School District board meetings?

A financial crisis is looming at Highlands, but taxpayers are inexplicably in the dark as to what exactly is going on.

At a Monday night meeting, we heard ominous predictions about the future. We heard words like bankruptcy, layoffs, consolidation and tax hikes.

What's going on at Highlands?

The district's proposed budget for the 2018-19 school year shows a $6.2 million deficit and, seemingly out of nowhere, school board members voted to borrow up to $11.5 million.

No doubt the district needs to act and act fast.

But must it do so under a veil of secrecy?

Also on Monday, officials revealed a reconfiguration plan that would consolidate elementary school students into one building.

But how did this plan come about? When and where was it discussed? And why were Joe and Mary Taxpayer not informed about it?

Other districts have closed and/or consolidated buildings. Allegheny Valley School District is the most recent. Kiski Area did it a few years ago.

But those districts took steps to keep the taxpayers informed. Studies were done and reported to the public. Meetings were held.

Public input was sought.

What does Highlands have to hide? On what studies are district officials relying for this reconfiguration plan?

The lack of transparency is fueling rumors about school closures, most notably the potential closing of Fawn Primary Center.

Parents have reason to be alarmed.

When Heights Elementary was rumored to be facing closure, the shutdown didn't happen right away. First came the rumors, then the denials. Then the closure.

Could the same fate be in store for Fawn Primary Center?

Taxpayers not only have a right to know, they have a right to be part of the discussion.

So do the right thing and open up your meetings, Highlands.

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