LEWISTOWN - Union Elementary School will close its doors for good at the end of the current school year following a vote taken Thursday by the Mifflin County School District Board of Directors.
The board voted by a 5-2 margin to close the Belleville school which currently shows a student population of 61.
Voting in favor of closing the school were Walter Harpster, Beth Laughlin, Travis Parkes, Mary Lou Sigler and Annemarie Swineford. Voting against the motion, which was given by Sigler, were Kristin Sharp and James Hurlburt. Directors Dr. Ruth Armstrong and Kirk Rager were not in attendance at Thursday's meeting.
Prior to the vote, Superintendent James Estep said he needed direction as to the future of the school with the impending renovation project looming at Indian Valley Elementary Center. During a special workshop meeting last month, the district's architect, Vern McKissick, indicated he estimated the school could lose up to $679,000 in reimbursement funds from the state on the Indian Valley Elementary project should Union remain open.
One question posed prior to the vote asked if there would there be adequate classroom space for the Union Elementary students at Indian Valley Elementary as early as next fall.
Estep said if the board does vote to proceed with the project, the timeline would be from January 2013 to January 2014, and that the initial phase would have the additional classroom space available by the opening of next school year.
Vance Varner, director of secondary education, reported that enrollment at Union Elementary as of Sept. 18 included nine in kindergarten; 22 in first grade; 11 in second grade and 19 in third grade.
On a related issue, the board voted unanimously to pursue financing for the Indian Valley Elementary School and Mifflin County Junior High School projects.
Brad Remig, a financial advisor with Public Financial Management of Harrisburg, was in attendance Thursday to present the board with several options for financing the project. The board ultimately chose a second option, in which a bond issue in the amount of $9.8 million would be pursued with a borrowing option for the final $1 million of the approximately $10.8 million project. Remig advised the board not to seek a bond issue in excess of $10 million because it could increase the amount of interest payments down the road.
Remig said interest rates right now are in the "3.5 to 3.25 percent range. I'm hoping we can beat that down a little bit."
In other business Thursday, the board heard presentations from four elementary school principals on improvement plans following disclosure that several Mifflin County Schools did not meet state benchmarks on last year's Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests. On hand to review improvement plans were Mark Hidlay of Lewistown Elementary, E. Terry Styers of East Derry Elementary and Strodes Mills Elementary, Mike LaMarca of Indian Valley Elementary and Union Elementary and Paul Maidens of Lewistown Intermediate School.
All four indicated that improvement is necessary, although Indian Valley Elementary met the state benchmarks. Maidens, in particular, said he is going to work with LaMarca and his staff "to see what they did right and how we can implement some of those things."
Styers said he has implemented a plan to increase screeners and getting kids more involved in daily reading, especially non-fiction and informational text.
"We're going to do group reading assessments and MAP assessments," he added.
Hidlay highlighted several areas where steps to improve are already under way, including encouraging staff to follow PA Common Core Standards, individualized instruction based on student needs, and taking advantage of available technology in the classroom.
In other business Thursday, the board approved:
The rejection of boiler replacement and HVAC construction bids dated Aug. 14 for the Mifflin County Junior High School.
The hiring of Jamie Fisher and Tracy Bastress as custodians.
The addition of Andrew Stroup, William Gillispie, Michael Bickhart and Travis Mazzoni to the custodian substitute list.
Deletion of Theresa Stangl from the custodian substitute list.
A request by the Husky Football Parents' Group to use the Mifflin County High School Commons area on Sunday, Jan. 13 for their end-of-season banquet.
A request by the Burnham Bulldogs to use Mitchell Field for the Burnham Bulldogs Special Needs football team to hold its annual American Bowl on Nov. 11 and a waiver of the $600 fee.
The addition of Mary Gordon, Nancy Demskie, Karen Miller, Cindy Jasper and Ashley Carolus to the cafeteria substitute list.
The hiring of Karen Miller, Cindy Jasper, Michelle Jones and Shelby Stimely as part-time cafeteria workers.
The deletion of Ashley Carolus from the cafeteria substitute list.
Approval of the following bus drivers: From KV Bus Lines: Lisa Sunderland and John Byler; from Fisher Brothers: Deborah Miller, Hanry Walk and Mary Ruble; from J&D's: Scott Aultz, Barbie Bender and Beverly Lightfoot-Gers.
The hiring of Jade Ruble as a math teacher at Mifflin County High School.
The hiring of Brandy Erb as an autistic support teacher at Lewistown Intermediate School.
The hiring of Corby Lancaster as a long-term substitute kindergarten teacher at Strodes Mills Elementary School.
Approval of Sonya Riden and Kathryn Shaffer to serve as teacher mentors.
Approval of Clint Aurand as mathematics coordinator for the 2012-13 year.
Acceptance of the resignation of Sean Carey, social studies teacher at Mifflin County High School, due to personal reasons.
A recommendation to increase the rate of pay for substitute teachers to offset a shortage.
The following additions to the 2012-13 substitute teacher list: Ashley Kitting, elementary; Raymond Klinger, elementary; Carol Caldwell, mentally/physically handicapped elementary; Jane Looney, school nurse; and Amy Hart, secondary.
A recommendation to hire Brent Stoltzfus as a social studies teacher at Mifflin County High School.
The following deletions from the substitute teachers list: Kevin Ryan and Alison Summers.
A recommendation to increase the daily teacher substitute rate effective Oct. 1
The hiring of the following full time paraprofessionals: Tracy Roe, Lisa Avedician, Debra Phillips, Kathy Krepps, Cheyenne Wagner and Jesse Hoffman.
The following to be added to the substitute paraprofessional list: Betty Jo Knepp, Loretta Cherry, Tina Hale, Susan Jodon, Alynda Lewis and Jennifer Miller.
The resignations of Kendra Kauffman and Louise Gramley as paraprofessionals.
Approval of Katherine Gandy and Carol Booher as classroom volunteers.
The hiring of Gina Wortman as a language arts teacher.
The resignation of Dorothy Fisher, phys ed teacher at Indian Valley Elementary Center, effective the end of the current school year.
The following coaches for the 2012-13 year: Scot Sechler, first assistant spring track; Donald Lepley, assistant eighth grade girls basketball; and Emily Eckenroth, assistant seventh grade girls basketball.
The following volunteer coaches for the 2012-13 year: Edward Stewart, boys basketball; Jamie Barrett-Fetters, bowling; Raymond Klinger, football; Michael Hoskavich, football; Frank Zannino, football; and Richard Strausburg, football.
The addition of Raymond Klinger and Alex Haines to the 2012-13 event staff.