AlliedNews.com - Grove City, Pennsylvania

March 8, 2013

Debate over Har-Mer closing continues

Learn Mar. 11 about joining transition team

By Monica Pryts/Staff Writer
Allied News

SLIPPERY ROCK — Slippery Rock school board members on Monday debated more concerns they have about their decision to close Har-Mer Elementary School July 1 or keep it open.

"I think we need to address some of these issues," board member Mark Taylor said.

If they decide to close the school in Harrisville, which has had declining enrollment, there's not enough time for the transition needed to get Har-Mer students settled at Area Elementary in Slippery Rock and Moraine in Prospect, he said.

The board needs to form a transition committee now, something that was proposed at the public hearing held Feb. 4, when the majority of parents who spoke said Har-Mer should stay open, Taylor said.

It's a good idea to have that in place just in case and the committee would include administrators, teachers, parents and board members, said the Rev. Michael Scheer, board president.

He and Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Nogay will have information about how people can join the committee at the March 11 board meeting, which is at 7:30 p.m. at Moraine.

Board member Polly Shaw said her kids were students at two elementary schools the district closed years ago and the transition was smooth; the same should go for Har-Mer and it doesn't need to be "too elaborate."

"It would be good to at least be ready," Scheer said of being prepared if the board decides to close Har-Mer.

Kenneth Speer, board member and chair of the Har-Mer committee, questioned whether they should hold another public hearing to make sure everyone who could be affected gets the right information.

He's spoken to several Moraine parents who were unaware of class size changes their kids might experience if Har-Mer closes.

"I don't know how we can get information out," Speer said.

Scheer said he wasn't interested in a second hearing because that would push back the date of when the board could vote on Har-Mer's future. They can't vote until 90 days after the last hearing and the Feb. 4 one has been the only hearing.

Some parents thought there would be more than one hearing, Speer said. Board member Kirby Lotz, who lives in Prospect, said he's gotten a lot of feedback but no one seems misinformed.

"I can't go to the store or the post office without getting feedback," he said.

Shaw noted no one from the public came to speak at the Feb. 11 board meeting held at Har-Mer, their first meeting after the public hearing.

"The means have been there for people to find out," Scheer said of newspaper articles and information on the district website.

In other business, the board awarded a contract to replace the roof at Moraine, which has been leaking in recent years.

Six bids were received and the contract went to the lowest bidder, Strongland Roofing Systems Inc., Vandergrift, Pa., for $681,241.92.

The contract includes a 30-year warranty and work will be done over the summer, said Lotz, head of the operations committee.

It will be paid for out of the district's fund balance, which currently has $6.1 million.

Voters in November turned down a referendum on the ballot that asked if the district should take on $38 million worth of debt for renovations, leading to a property tax hike of about 11 or 12 mills.

Moraine and the high school were at the center of that ballot question and maintenance issues at both buildings, especially the roof, still need to be done even though the measure didn't pass, Lotz has said.

Published Feb. 27, 2013, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.