Union Elementary to close

LEWISTOWN – The Mifflin County School Board of Directors voted at its meeting Thursday to close Union Elementary School at the completion of the current school year due to district restructuring.

The final vote was 6-2 in favor of the closure. Board members Walter Hurlburt Jr. and Kristen L. Sharp voted against the recommendation. Kirk Rager was not in attendance.

Union Elementary, located in Belleville, had 64 students enrolled in kindergarten through third grade at the beginning of the current school year.

School will start for students on Aug. 22 to begin the 2013-14 school year. Board members Hurlburt Jr., Walter Harpster and Beth M. Laughlin voted against the recommendation.

Superintendent James Estep said this change will align the calendar. He said each year students are forced to take “very high stakes” tests in April, and in May for the Advanced Placement tests. Estep said based on his 25 years experience, the early portion of the school year tends to be when students are most successful.

Since the inception of the “high-stakes” testing, Estep said he has seen a trend of many students starting to “shut down” after the relief of having already taken those tests sets in.

“We tried to align this calendar without, what I thought, was a drastic move.” Estep said.

He said he felt if the school could get one more week of instruction in during the beginning of the year it would be better. Also, he added this would get the students out of school one week earlier, possibly before Memorial Day.

In other business the board:

Voted to approve the subdivision plan of the land parcel in Oliver Township which contains the Strodes Mills Elementary School and former Strodes Mills Middle School.

Voted to lease the land adjacent to the former Brown Elementary School for farming purposes.

Approved the agreement between the Mifflin County Board of Education and the Mifflin County Education Support Professionals, the contract covering the period between July 1, 2012 and June 30, 2014.

Voted to allow a foreign exchange student from France for the 2013-14 school year who will live with Kerry and Marty Rager, of Reedsville.

Voted to add Megan A. Whary, Jill M. Zeger, Wayne D. Bond, Jennifer L. Cohenour and Brent D. Smeltz to the 2012-13 substitute teacher list.

Granted tenure to Wendy J. Mauery and Jennifer L. Hartzler.

Voted to hire Gregory A. Loht as the head cross country coach and Trevor S. Eckley as the head girls soccer coach for the 2013-14 school year.

The Mifflin County School Board of Directors’ next scheduled meeting is at 6:30 p.m. March 21 at the Mifflin County District Administration Building in the Highland Park section of Lewistown.