New Castle News

February 21, 2013

New Castle Schools: Board looks at consolidation, youngest students

Nancy Lowry
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Moving forward on school consolidation without disturbing elementary students is a prime concern of the New Castle school district.

Stanley Magusiak, interim superintendent, this week asked board members what direction they wish to go regarding consolidation and closing buildings. Another public work session has been set for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Croton administration building.

“We’ve all heard rumors,” Magusiak said. “But this is the first time the details have been discussed by the school board.”

He acknowledged “there are a lot of questions.”

Charles Sapienza, district solicitor, outlined procedures required by the Pennsylvania Department of Education to close buildings. This includes conducting a public hearing and waiting 90 days before taking action. Sapienza said the timeline could require the district to delay the start of the 2013-14 school year until Sept. 3.

Sapienza also outlined procedures to be followed to furlough teachers and support staff if three of the city’s elementary buildings are closed.

Administrators said they do not yet know how many employees can expect to be furloughed.

Magusiak said administrators will meet with union officials and determine procedures to be followed for those being displaced by school closings.

“We want to be as fair as possible,” board member Mary Ann Tofel said.

 “Seniority will rule the day,” Sapienza said, although other factors that could come into play include dual certification.

The primary center will accommodate children in kindergarten, first and second grades.

Magusiak said third-graders will relocate to George Washington Intermediate Elementary School, which now houses students in grades four, five and six.

He anticipates keeping the third-graders in 10 classrooms on the first floor, away from the older students.

Joe Ambrosini, district business manager, presented board members with a “wish list” of improvements to be made to the intermediate building. Figures, he said, will be provided Tuesday.

Board members also discussed other options, one of which included keeping John F. Kennedy Primary Center on Highland Avenue open. If that is done, board member Allen Joseph noted, Americans with Disabilities Act compliance becomes an issue. He said improvements must be made to bring the building into compliance.

Ambrosini this week also offered the board its first look at the $43 million 2013-14 budget.

If the consolidation does not take place, if there are no teacher layoffs and if all raises, health benefits and retirement obligations remain, he said, the district can expect a $491,000 deficit. However, he pointed out the district has a $14.9 million surplus that could be tapped.

Ambrosini said many questions must be resolved before the budget is completed. The district has until May to put the spending plan on display before final action is taken in June.