Shaler Area officials presented with community center proposal
Girl Scout Troop 50640 recently completed a “journey,” or plan for initiating community change, by developing a means to bring the community together.
Shaler Area School District's decision to close Jeffery Primary School and relocate its students to the new Scott Primary School for the 2018-19 school year served as inspiration.
“Ever since the school district mentioned that Jeffery's going to close, the idea of a community center has been thrown around. We were all like, we've heard about it and we think it's an amazing idea, so why not go for it?” said Jackie Geyer, one of five Shaler Area juniors involved with the project.
They created surveys consisting of questions about each respondent's age, municipality, interest in a community center and amenities he or she would like to see — such as a gym, computer lab, private rental space, fitness area, senior citizen center and warming center.
The Girl Scout Seniors asked local churches to print announcements about the online surveys in their bulletins. They also distributed survey requests at day cares, schools and during Girl Scout cookie sales. If people preferred to complete the questionnaires by hand, they could do so at the Shaler North Hills Library, where Geyer works.
The students received 911 responses. Ninety-seven percent favored the community center idea.
“I remember we had a snow day where we spent three or four hours sorting through all of the paper, just in one day,” said Natalie Perrine, of the 155 paper responses. Still, the girls received the majority of responses — 756 — online.
“People from other areas were responding to it and they were happy about it and I thought that was pretty cool,” Alyssa Ferianc said.
The top amenities that respondents sought were a fitness center or classes, followed by a gymnasium, then a rental space for classes or events.
Julie Powers said that she would like to see basketball hoops in a gym because that is something the township is lacking. Ferianc said the center could provide community-based activities, similar to those the Shaler North Hills Library offers.
The Girl Scouts met with state Sen. Randy Vulakovich (R-Shaler) to discuss potential funding opportunities. Michele Kriedler, troop leader, and Lisa Geyer, assistant troop leader, said that he suggested securing private donations and corporate sponsorships.
The students presented their proposal during the April Shaler Board of Commissioners meeting. The girls suggested defraying the township's costs of operating the center by having Mount Alvernia Day Care and Learning Center — now located at Millvale's Mount Alvernia Campus, which is for sale — share some of the center's space. Jackie Geyer, a Scout, said that if Shaler charged $35 per month for center membership — close to the Pine Community Center's rate — it could generate around $280,000 annually based on the Shaler's last population census data. Additional revenue could come from facility rentals.
“You found a lot of information and statistics and that was your objective in this, but the actual accomplishment of the community center remains to be seen,” said board President David Shutter. “But this information certainly helps people when they're sitting and trying to make decisions.”
He said that “the ball is in their (the school district's) court at this stage of the game because they've yet to conclude the finishing of that school.”
The Girl Scouts met with Shaler Area Superintendent Sean Aiken to discuss their proposal and gave a presentation at the March 21 school board meeting. As legally required, there was a public hearing April 11 regarding the Jeffery Primary School's closure. At this point, the district has not made any final determinations regarding the school.
Erica Cebzanov is a Tribune-Review contributor.