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Franklin Regional residents pack meeting seeking answers on Sloan Elementary campus

Patrick Varine
| Monday, March 12, 2018, 9:27 p.m.
Franklin Regional Assistant Superintendent Mary Catherine Reljac speaks at a forum held Monday, March 12, 2018, at Franklin Regional Senior High School in Murrysville.
Patrick Varine | Tribune-Rev iew
Franklin Regional Assistant Superintendent Mary Catherine Reljac speaks at a forum held Monday, March 12, 2018, at Franklin Regional Senior High School in Murrysville.
Donna Wolf, Mary Catherine Reljac, John Koury and Tina Gillen sort questions posed by residents at a Monday, March 12, 2018 public forum at Franklin Regional Senior High School in Murrysville.
Patrick Varine | Tribune-Review
Donna Wolf, Mary Catherine Reljac, John Koury and Tina Gillen sort questions posed by residents at a Monday, March 12, 2018 public forum at Franklin Regional Senior High School in Murrysville.

Franklin Regional School District residents still had plenty of questions and concerns about the Sloan “elementary campus” project at Monday night's public forum.

About 280 people packed the high school cafeteria, with emotions running high at times and several audience members expressing dissatisfaction with what they perceived as a lack of answers.

“We came here because we were told we'd have our questions answered,” said Val Mittereder of Murrysville. “That's why there's 200-some people here.”

The district is seeking to consolidate its elementary students onto one campus.

In order to do that, Sloan Elementary would be renovated to allow it to accommodate students in kindergarten through second grade.

A new elementary school would be built that would house grades 3 to 5.

The projected cost is about $54 million, and likely more than $100 million when factoring in interest over time.

Similar to the previous town hall meeting in the cafeteria, residents were broken into small groups and paired with school board members and administrators to generate discussion as well as questions.

Those questions, written on Post-It notes, filled four large boards under general categories like “Safety,” Traffic” and “Demographics.”

Among the questions that nearly every group put forth:

•Were sites other than Sloan considered?

• How will traffic concerns be addressed, particularly access for emergency vehicles that will have to traverse Sardis Road to reach the district's elementary students?

• Concerns about the population growth projected in the district's demographic study, which predicts an increase in elementary enrollment over the long term.

Board members emphasized that the project was not conceived to fulfill a “wish list” that administrators and teachers had compiled.

“What we're pushing for on this is functionality, not glitz,” school board member John Koury said. “And the functionality of the classroom spaces is being designed by input from our teachers.”

Board member Gregg Neavin said the district's current buildings were “simply not constructed to provide a 21st-century education.

“When you look at a South Fayette (School District) classroom, there's no Tiffany chandeliers,” Neavin said. “There's a space for kids to work and learn.”

Answers promised

Neavin, who ran much of the meeting and engaged in a few contentious back-and-forth debates, said that while the board wouldn't be able to answer every single question raised at the meeting, he was committed to getting every question answered in a format that would be posted to the district's website and mailed to anyone who requests a copy.

Mittereder said she and others were not pleased with the roundtable discussion approach.

“I think we'd really like to have our questions answered, and not ‘play classroom,'” she said.

The forum lasted past deadline for this issue.

The school board's next public meeting is set for 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Murrysville Municipal Building, 4100 Sardis Road.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at pvarine@tribweb.com, 724-850-2862 or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.

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