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Building deficiencies at Donegal Elementary addressed

| Saturday, Nov. 1, 2008

Mt. Pleasant Area School District Superintendent Terry Struble addressed parents' concerns regarding several building deficiencies at Donegal Elementary School but said a solution may not happen immediately due to the district's feasibility study of all buildings, which will not be completed for several months.

At a meeting with parents this week, Struble outlined his "three points to school as I see it."

He said the most important point, the whole reason for school, is academics.

"We've worked hard to exceed state standards," he said.

The school will soon receive its fourth consecutive Keystone Achievement Award. The state award recognizes schools for meeting adequate yearly progress under No Child Left Behind. Struble said innovative programs in reading, math, social studies and science help ensure achievement by making sure "kids are involved."

Athletics and activities are also vital, Struble said. "They keep the kids enticed." He said very few children involved in extracurricular activities get in trouble and "they learn to manage their time. They know their homework needs to get done before the activities."

Struble's third point involves both staff and buildings, the "experience your kids have when they come to school, teachers who care about them, staff who know their names, the heat is working, because for some kids, school is the warmest place they will be in all day, food is available and they feel this is their safe spot."

He said that 30 percent or more of the district's children rely on school as the most caring place for them to be.

"I truly believe when they walk through the doors of our schools they have someone who cares about them and where they feel safe," he said. "Our kids need somebody to show them there's somebody who cares. A lot of our kids don't get that at home."

Part of the caring, Struble said, involves the appearance of the school, both inside and out. "It should be clean, comfortable, incorporates arts in all ways -- music, art on the walls, the structure -- it's a special place. To me, curb appeal is everything. It creates a setting for a child that they're somewhere special."

Struble said his goal is to "achieve all three things."

Parent Joy Brady asked about leaks, drips and exposed wires.

"We're concerned and hope we're near the top of the list. It was $169,000 for Norvelt's new roof. We have the nicest elementary gym in the district, and we want to keep it that way," she said.

She added that the skylight in the sixth grade hallway has been covered for years, leaving the hallway gloomy.

Parent Sheri Temple said parents and teachers are "concerned about the carpet in the kindergarten room. I've been told it hasn't been replaced in 26 years."

Struble said he had no reports of mold in the carpet but personally opposes carpets in schools because they are hard to keep clean.

Struble said the board took a bus tour of all the district's buildings and is concerned about Donegal. He said two elementary roofs "are beyond repairs. Yours held up better this weekend than Rumbaugh's. We started a feasibility study to see what needs to be done."

He said the study, which is being performed by HHSDR Architects, Sharon, is examining all options for the district's schools. "We need to know what we can afford and what we cannot afford. It might be a year or a year and a half for feasibility study options to begin. You still need a roof. We need to move to a point that by spring we have a direction."

The board will have to select and approve an option or options for renovations or other changes in the district once it receives the feasibility study. "Every conceivable recommendation is on the table," Struble said.

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