Pleasant Valley School District held a public hearing Wednesday night on the proposed closure of Polk Elementary School.

If it closes, it will be the third elementary school in the district to close.

The first was Eldred Elementary in 2010, followed by Chestnuthill Elementary at the end of the 2012-2013 school year.

The hearing, conducted by Attorney Daniel M. Corveleyn, was attended by six of the nine school directors, five administrators and one resident.

Superintendent Carole Geary told attendees how the district got to this point and why the district built an addition on Polk Elementary based on an overview of the 2006 PDE Projected Student Enrollment figures.

In 1998-99 school year, the enrollment was at 5,801 with the projected enrollment for 2013-2014 to be 7,747.

"The decisions we made were made with the thoughts of what would be in five years," said Geary.

Each year after 1999, the enrollment increased. In 2005-2006, the enrollment was at 7,024.

Off the mark

Then in 2008, the PDE Projected Student Enrollment figures projected a decrease in enrollment for the 2013-2014 school year to be 5,515, down by 2,232. To date, PV's enrollment is at 5,042. The projected enrollment for the year 2020-2021 is 4,140.

"The projected figures were pretty far off the mark," Geary said.

The next graph presented portrayed the 2004 PDE Data on live births in the PV district. In 2000 it was 266, rising steadily to 375 in 2007. The current PDE live birth data shows a peak at above 350 in 2001 to a steady decrease until a spike in 2008 and then decreasing to just above 250 in 2013.

Geary attributes these figures to the downturn in the economy and people moving out of the district.

She said 468 students graduated in 2012-2013. The estimated number of graduates this year is 421. The total students enrolled in kindergarten for the 2013-2014 year is 285.

"We're looking at maybe 300 in Kindergarten for the next few years. We're seeing our community age. Kiddos are not staying here. They move out of the area. There's no industry here to keep them," Geary said.

Cost savings

In 2013-2014 school year, students who would attend Polk will go to Pleasant Valley Elementary. Geary says the school will be able to handle the increase of its 266 students since it has empty classrooms now. Currently the enrollment at PVE is at 1,022, compared to the enrollment of 1,657 in the 1997-1998 school year.

The district will save money by the closing, with a reduction of seven staff members and a cost reduction of $1,178,664.

"That estimate is a low ball amount," she said.

She added that with the closing of the school, there would be a reduction in PDE Subsidy from the state of $594,434 in 2014-2015, a reduction of $276,490 in 2015-2016 and by 2016-2017, the amount would be zero. But the estimated savings in 2014-2015 would be $584,230, 2015-2016 savings would be $902,174 and by 2016-2017 it would be a savings of $1,178, 664 for a total savings of $2,665,068 at the end of those first three years.

The board voted to offer retirement incentives, it closed two other buildings to be fiscally responsible to the community.

"We've done everything we could do and still provide a really great education to our kiddos. There are 19 school districts in the IU and PV was ranked as the third highest," Geary said.

Buyers?

School board director Len Peeters asked if the district had any prospective groups interested in purchasing the property or to rent space to offset the cost.

Geary said that the Pocono Family YMCA inquired about possibly moving its satellite location in the former Eldred Elementary School building in Kunkletown. She informed them that the space in Polk would probably be more expensive than what they're paying now in Eldred but that it would probably be available if interested. She added that she believes once word gets out that the school will be closed, more inquiries will be forthcoming.

Board Vice President Steve Borger asked about the availabilities at the former Chestnuthill school and Geary said it was pretty much filled and that Eldred's location is an issue. Borger said that he thinks the district should aggressively put it out there to the public that these spaces will be available.

Director Dan Wunder asked if there would be any historical ramifications for closing Polk; Geary said no.

Putting a more positive spin on the proposed closing, Geary pointed out that by 2018-2019 the district would see a debt decrease of about $4 million.

"There's a light at the end of this financial tunnel.

A vote on the decision to close Polk Elementary will be held at the March 13 school board meeting.