By Monica Pryts/Staff Writer
SLIPPERY ROCK —
The soonest meeting where Slippery Rock school board members can vote on whether to close Har-Mer Elementary School is less than a month away, and they're still debating the issue.
"I still don't think we're set on anything if Har-Mer were to close," board member Diana Wolak said at Monday's work session of how there are still numerous options on the table.
School officials on Feb. 4 held a public hearing that attracted many parents and taxpayers, many who said they want the Harrisville school to remain open.
The hearing was required by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, which has said the board can vote 90 days after the hearing. They have a work session scheduled for May 6.
If the board decides to close Har-Mer, which has had declining enrollment, that will be effective July 1 and the kindergarten through fifth grade students will be transferred to Area Elementary in Slippery Rock or Moraine Elementary in Prospect.
Board member David Hutner, who on March 11 criticized the public for spreading rumors that Har-Mer was definitely closing, said on Monday he thought the district was moving in the right direction by considering adding more staff to keep class sizes manageable if the building is shut down.
Kenneth Speer, board member and chair of the Har-Mer building committee, who has continued to disagree with class size projections, said he believes there would be too many classes with too many students.
Area Elementary and Moraine would have more kids per class, some up to 26, if no changes are made to the current situation, Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Nogay said.
Some parents feel the best interest of their child's education is not being communicated very well, Wolak said.
"So many parents just keep saying 'my kids do better at Har-Mer,'" she said.
That's not the case, she said of parents who worry their children won't excel if they're transferred out of Har-Mer, and they might do even better at one of the other buildings because of better access to more special services.
"Moving Har-Mer to Area to me looks like maxing out that building," Speer said.
Nogay said she doesn't think class size numbers should be the main issue because enrollment figures change every year.
Board President the Rev. Michael Scheer questioned what it would take to provide that same level of special services at Har-Mer if it stays open. He hopes to have that answer at the April 22 meeting.
"Add a full-time principal to that," Wolak said of how Har-Mer shouldn't have to continue to share administrators with the other buildings.
The district needs to improve the way it gets this kind of information to the public and the website isn't updated on a regular basis, Hutner said.
"We need to take steps to correct that. We need to do a better job of it," he said.
Nogay was expected to meet with the district's technology coordinator Tuesday and she said she'd discuss the website with him.
In other business:
Paul Cessar, board secretary and district business manager, gave the board a brief update on the 2013-14 budget of about $29 million, which now carries a deficit of $410,000, down from the February shortfall of $775,000.
That change mainly comes from retirement notices, which were still coming in as of Monday, the submission deadline.
Those retirements also mean a $380,000 reduction in salary expenses and a 1 percent decrease in health care costs, but other medical costs will go up by $217,000 due to retiree benefits, he said.
The district is still waiting on the state's final budget before the board can adopt its own final budget by June 30.
Current property taxes are 89.15 mills and the board has yet to discuss whether they plan to raise the rates.
Published April. 10, 2013, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.