Mechanicsburg school board approves reorganization plan

MECHANICSBURG, Pa. - The Mechanicsburg Area school board approved a plan Tuesday to reorganize its elementary schools.

Under the plan, Elmwood Elementary School will become an academy for all the 4th and 5th graders in the district. Three other elementary schools, Northside, Upper Allen and Broad Street, will house first through third grades. A fourth school, Shepherdstown Elementary, will be converted to the district's administrative offices.

"What this enables us to do is equalize the class sizes in a 4-5 center and have them all coming to one building, so you never have that scenario where you shut down a building and you need to bus them across the entire township," school board President Dawn Merris said after the vote.

Supporters cited the desire for fourth and fifth grade teachers to be able to work collaboratively at the same school site as well as planning for future growth as key reasons to make the move. It passed by a 6-2 vote.

Opponents were concerned about forcing students through an additional school site change, which can be tough on children, they said, among other concerns.

"There are people out there that feel like this kind of reconfiguration is going to cause massive problems for traffic, kids on buses for longer periods of time," John Anthony, a community member who opposed the proposal, said.

Most parents FOX43 talked to in the community Tuesday were either unaware of the proposal or indifferent, but those who knew about it said they understood both sides of the debate.

"If it's a more cost-effective means of accommodating the growth in the district, it's a good way to go," Tim Dewire, a parent of a 3rd grader at Broad Street Elementary, said. "The concern is not so much on the part of us as parents, but more so with our child because he doesn't necessarily want to go to a new school."

The realignment will not take immediate effect, Merris said. It will likely be put in place in time for the 2018-19 school year.