Is Closing Laurel Point Elementary A Done Deal?

Is closing the Laurel Point Elementary School a done deal or is the Kiski Area School Board really considering the option of keeping it open as part of their overall plan?

This is a community school with a lot of community involvement and support. Local support is probably a good thing since when KASD failed to provide improvements, local residents came through. Everything from basketball hoops to concrete work to signage.

And Laurel Point has retained something no other elementary school in Kiski Area has – a community name.  All the others have been renamed.

Many feel closing the school is a done deal in keeping with the reorganizing plan developed several years ago and that the lack of improvements and attitude of the administration in the past year are a reflection of the intent to close. Even so, about 500 residents signed a petition requesting the school be kept open and presented the petition to the board at the February 17th School Board meeting. Other residents attended to voice their opposition to closing the school.

The residents were also vocal in their opposition at the required public meeting held on January 23rd.

Since the board does not discuss issues at public meetings and may (or may not) comment on citizen statements and questions, the frustration level of residents only increases.

Background

Planning for the reorganization/reconfiguration of the schools in Kiski Area began in 2000, was re-visited in 2007 and again in 2010. In June 2010, a series of 7 meetings was held by a committee of 16 people. In addition to Dr. Meighan, the committee consisted of three school board members (one from each region), three teachers, and 9 residents – three from each of the district’s 3 legislative regions.

The committee started with two models for reorganizing. One was to leave the elementary buildings as K-6. The other was to move 6th grade to the Intermediate School. Scenarios were created to satisfy these models and construction costs were estimated for each scenario.  Costs included probable re-imbursement from the state. Washington and Bell-Avon had no probability, Vandergrift had a low probability, and Laurel Point had an excellent probability for reimbursement.

The committee used a scoring system to vote on scenarios once costing was complete.

On October 25, 2010, at the 5th meeting, Dr. Meighan came up with a third model creating a district wide 5th and 6th grades school and left the Intermediate School and high school out of the plan. This model was selected. At the final two meetings only scenarios supporting this model were considered.

During and after these public meetings about reorganization, Parks Township residents were clear in their desire to not have their school closed and sent many letters and emails to Dr. Meighan stating their opposition to the closing and providing rationale for keeping it open.

Two interesting points about the selection process:

  1. Transportation costs do not seem to be part of the cost analysis; only construction
  2. The selected model never received a majority of the scoring points. It received a score of 388, K-5 with 6th grade at the Intermediate scored 280, and leaving K-6 as is scored 264

Check the report scenarios and recommendations yourself. The December 10, 2010 School Feasibility Advisory Committee Final Report is available on the KASD website. Use "more news" and see the last item at the bottom of the page.

Effect of Closing on Parks Twp Property Values

There is evidence that having a Blue Ribbon school has a positive effect on property values and Laurel Point is a Blue Ribbon school (one of only 15 in Pennsylvania). Check out this presentation.

Current Laurel Point Status

As required by law, on January 23, 2014, a public meeting was held regarding the closing of Laurel Point.

At the meeting, the Valley Daily News reported than Dr. Meighan felt the reconfiguration (i.e., closing schools) should also improve the quality of educational programs the district offers its students. Well, since Laurel Point is already a Blue Ribbon school, improving the quality of programs for the Parks Township students is unlikely.

The school board cannot act to close the school for a minimum of 90 days from the date of the public hearing. That is how long the residents have to change board minds.  April 23rd is the tentative date to vote on closing the school.

What to do

If you are Parks Township resident and want to keep Laurel Point open, now is the time to act. According to the 2010 census, there are 2744 of you.

Contact Your School Directors

Sometimes board members (and the administration) seem to forget the school board is in charge. And that they were elected to represent the residents in managing KASD.

You are in Region III of the district and are represented by Julie Hansen, Ben Silvestri and Jim Summerville. Contact them. Unfortunately, Kiski Area does not provide phone numbers and email addresses of School Directors on school website like other local districts. For numbers not listed in the Vandergrift phone directory, simply use your computer and google their name. For example, “white pages Julie Hansen 15690”.

Remember: school board members serve without pay.

Contacting them and ranting or going off on them is not going to help. Be civil and present your reasons for keeping the school open.

Contact Other School Directors

Contact the other school directors as well. See the Legislative Structure for directors or the KASD website School Board page.

Attend All Public School Board Related Meetings

The meeting dates are normally the 3rd Monday of the month and the informational meeting is the Wednesday prior to the board meeting. Check the KASD calendar to be sure.

Not only will you see how they operate, but it gives you the chance to talk with board members in person. Again, civility and passion work best. Let your passion for keeping the school open be apparent.

The meeting will not take much of your time. Except for citizen comments, the board pretty much reads through the minutes.  On Wednesdays they confirm the agenda for Monday. On Monday they vote. Their discussions primarily take place behind closed doors in Executive Sessions.

There are also public committee meetings. Check the calendar.

Vote

School Directors are elected. For some reason, the current School Directors are reluctant to publicly state their views. Support and vote for people who will represent you if they become elected officials.

Publish Comments on Kiski-Area-Info

You can use the Contact Us form to send your comments. Before publishing I will send an edited copy for your review and confirmation if it can be published. Please keep in mind I am not a newspaper and don’t have a staff but will do the best I can in the available time.

Letters to the Editor

Some residents of Parks Township are already writing letters voicing their hopes and concerns about Laurel Point Elementary.

Be sensible, factual while showing your passion. Remember that letters to the editor are public documents with your name attached.

Divine Intervention

If you are inclined to make your case before the Almighty, now is a good time. Don’t forget to ask for some insight and wisdom in the matter while you are at it.

Conclusions

Some residents may be reluctant to make much noise about this since their children will still be attending school in Kiski Area. This is probably not a big issue, but is all the more reason to be respectful in what you say and how you say it.

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PLEASE NOTE

This site is not a publication of the Kiski Area School District or School Board.



WASHINGTON TWP VOTERS

Please note that 2 polling locations have changed.

If you voted at the Municipal Building, you will now vote at the Washington Twp Fire Hall.

If you voted at the elementary school, you will now vote at the Municipal Building.

Details & Ballots


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Updated Feb 25, 2014