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Meeting to address enrollment issues

| Monday, March 25, 2002

Seneca Valley Schools - Seneca Valley officials found a way to avoid redistricting for elementary students this school year, but that could change by next school year.

School officials have invited families from several northern Cranberry housing plans to discuss potential shifts in attendance areas and other plans to cope with the district's growing enrollment at 7 p.m. today at Seneca Valley Intermediate High School, Seneca School Road.

Linda Andreassi, school district spokeswoman, said plans will be discussed to shift about 55 fifth- and sixth-graders from Evans City Middle School in Evans City to Haine Middle School in Cranberry Township.

"This is by no means a done deal," Andreassi said. "We are looking to receive input from the families. The very earliest the board could approve anything is April 15."

The district is searching for ways to cope with the continuing growth in student population. District enrollment grew from 7,440 in October 2000 to 7,557 in October 2001, a 1.6 percent increase.

In February, Seneca Valley Superintendent Gerald Malecki made a presentation to the board citing a report by a Carnegie Mellon University demographer that said the district's student population could climb by 1,500 students in the next 10 years.

"We have a lack of room," Andreassi said. "We are at maximum capacity at Evans City Middle School."

The school has 578 students.

Andreassi said a proposal for building an elementary school on recently purchased land along Ehrman Road and an update on the six-room expansion at Connoquenessing Valley Elementary also will be discussed at the meeting.

Andreassi said other options might be presented, such as funneling new student registrations to certain district buildings.

For this school year, two special-needs classes, which are offered to students from Seneca Valley and from other Midwestern Intermediate Unit districts were moved from Connoquenessing Valley Elementary School in Zelienople to Haine Elementary School. The move opened up two classrooms at Connoquenessing Valley.

Several minor changes will be made to cope with crowding at Seneca Valley elementary schools next year, but administrators said the school board soon will have to find a long-term solution for the district's growing enrollment. Among the possible solutions Malecki has discussed was a centralized kindergarten facility to free up space in existing schools.

That option would be less expensive than a new elementary school because it would not require a cafeteria or an elaborate gymnasium, Malecki said. He did not have exact construction figures.

While not a strong supporter of portable classrooms, Malecki said they could be used to alleviate crowding in elementary schools.

He said portable units would be available for elementary students after the construction projects at the intermediate high and middle schools are complete.

Rowan Elementary School in Cranberry Township also had staffing and classroom changes to accommodate this year's enrollment of 844, the most among the district's four elementary schools. The elementary school along Rowan Road is home to kindergarten through fourth-grade students for all of Seven Fields and the southeast portion of Cranberry Township.

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