New Castle News

Schools

February 26, 2013

Communities losing neighborhood schools

HARRISBURG — Julie Finkbiner thinks small neighborhood schools are “jewels” that serve schools and communities well.

They provide academic environments that produce young people more connected to the places where they live, she said.

“These small schools are treasures that are being treated like trash.”

Finkbiner led an unsuccessful crusade to the save the neighborhood school in New Berlin in Union County. But she was not defeated.

As president of the New Berlin Borough Council, she was able to convince the other members to buy the vacant school. At the last council meeting, a committee was appointed to consider what to do with it.

It is a fight being waged across Pennsylvania in big cities and small villages.

On the day Gov. Tom Corbett delivered his budget address, busloads of protesters descended on Harrisburg to express their outrage over a plan to shutter 29 schools in Philadelphia.

That is on top of the 207 public schools in Pennsylvania’s 500 districts closed in the first two years of the Corbett administration.

Twenty-eight of them were in 56 districts in eight rural Pennsylvania counties surveyed for this story.

No one seems to have a handle yet on how many more schools will close in 2013.

A department of education spokesman said data about upcoming school closings has not been compiled yet.

Steve Robinson, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania School Board Association, said that while it is not clear how many schools will close, there are certainly more on the chopping block.

Corbett’s budget only includes an average 1.65 percent basic education funding increase and even the $1 billion targeted grant program tied to liquor privatization would not provide money for the 2013-14 budget year.

Robinson said he monitors news coverage of school board meetings across the state and there are numerous districts where school closings are being discussed.

“You might move to a neighborhood because you want your kids to be able to walk to school, but if the kids have to ride the bus because the school closed, you might wonder what is the point of living in the neighborhood, anymore,” said Thomas Hylton, a Pultizer Prize-winning writer and anti-sprawl advocate.

The buildings may remain vacant or when another use is found, it rarely is the sort of thing that attracts young families. One of the more common ways of recycling schools is to turn them into senior housing, which fills a need but does not exactly replace the void created by the flight of young families, said Bill Fontana, executive director of The Pennsylvania Downtown Center.

“Seniors are less mobile, have less disposable income and it is a population, that, by and large, tends not to get as involved in the community.”

Fontana said the concerns about the community-damaging impact of closing neighborhood schools was recognized more than a decade ago by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Smart Growth Network, which issued a report suggesting, among other things, that when community schools must be replaced the district replace them with facilities in the same neighborhoods.

Fontana said there appears to be a trend of developing in some areas where young people are opting to move back into the smaller cities with the intention of raising their families in the community. If that trend begins to pick up steam it would bode well for many of the communities fighting to keep their schools.

In the meantime, community leaders across Pennsylvania are fighting to save schools or find some way to recapture the vitality that the neighborhood school once brought.

(Email: jfinnerty@cnhi.com)

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Schools
  • money.jpg Up through the ground comes education cash

    Democrats running for governor seem to be competing to convince voters they will dip deepest into the pockets of gas drillers to replace $1 billion that Gov. Tom Corbett has cut from education spending.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • school.jpg Charter school petitions court with signatures

    The New Castle Arts Academy Charter School has petitioned the Lawrence County Court of Common Pleas for an appeal.

    April 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • money.jpg Schools wait years to receive state’s share of construction bills

    More than 200 school building projects are awaiting money from the state — in some cases months and years after they cleared all other hurdles of Pennsylvania’s approval process.

    April 4, 2014 1 Photo

  • Vo-tech staffers receive Pride and Promise awards

    The Lawrence County Career and Technical Center’s joint operating committee has presented Pride and Promise awards to two employees.

    April 1, 2014

  • Rich.jpg Official sorting out vo-tech finances

    Second of two parts: The Lawrence County Career and Technical Center is plowing through a financial quagmire with help from the Laurel School District.

    March 27, 2014 1 Photo 3 Stories

  • Rich.jpg Overtime pay the crux of vo-tech forensic audit

    First of two parts: Lawrence County Career and Technical Center’s former assistant business manager allegedly logged overtime while on vacation, an audit report shows.

    March 26, 2014 1 Photo 2 Stories

  • Audit report details alleged discrepancies

    Forensic auditors examining Lawrence County’s vocational-technical school funds focused on overtime pay of the assistant business manager.

    March 26, 2014 1 Story

  • Audit shows more than overtime issues

    A forensic audit of the Lawrence County Career and Technical Center finances turned up more than alleged unauthorized overtime pay.

    March 26, 2014

  • Letter.jpg Our Opinion: Recording executive sessions will limit abuse

    Whenever governing bodies have public meetings, they often opt to conduct executive sessions.This is perfectly legal under Pennsylvania law — so long as the basic purpose for the executive session is explained to the public and so long as officials refrain from discussing matters in private that are required to be addressed in the open.

    March 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • State sponsoring dog license poster contest

    The state Department of Agriculture is inviting  students to enter a poster contest about the importance of dog licensing. The contest is open to all Pennsylvania students of grades 1 through 6, enrolled in public, private or home schooled children. The entry deadline is April 30.

    March 20, 2014

House Ads
Poll

Are you concerned enough about the Heartbleed bug on the Internet to change all of your social media and website passwords?

Yes. It’s always a good idea to change passwords regularly anyway. I just have so many, I’m not sure where to start.
No. From what I’ve read, companies are still trying to figure out how to fix the flaw. The bad guys will just have access to my NEW passwords, too.
Not sure, but I blame Al Gore. He invented the Internet, right? How’s he going to get us out of this mess?
     View Results