Reaction was mixed Monday night to the concept of an elementary center at the Lehighton.

"Obviously, there are pros and cons to each concept (elementary center versus four individual elementary buildings)," said Suzanne Howland, principal of East Penn and Franklin Elementary Schools. "Each current elementary building is unique and different."

Aaron Sebelin, principal of Mahoning and Shull-David Elementary Schools, agreed. "Each building has its own 'small school feel,'" he said.

But Sebelin said it's not a new idea. "I came across files in my office with notes from my predecessor, Mr. (Lee) Getz, that this was talked about already back in the early '90s."

Howland and Sebelin discussed advantages of having one building to meet the students' needs versus having four separate buildings. These advantages include curriculum and professional opportunities; continuity of services under one location; safety and security; and increased administration presence.

"It's a very emotionally-charged subject, but it's important to do what is best for our students both now and in the future," Howland said.

"Personally, I'm dumbfounded by the turnaround since our discussions last month," said School Board Director William Hill.

"I think we should schedule meetings at each of our elementary schools and see what 'John Q. Public' has to say."

School Board President Gloria Bowman added, "I would like to get feedback from the public parents, as well as the entire community."

"I think it's important to look at all of our options before we go and do something," School Board Director Larry Stern said. "Let's make sure that we do the right thing."

School Board Director Stephen Holland suggested visiting schools with similar set-ups as the proposed elementary center concept and talk to the staff there.

When the floor was open for public comment, several parents and taxpayers spoke in favor of the elementary center concept.

Martha Cox, a 40-year teacher in the district, said, "It would help equalize and balance class sizes, as well as make it easier to share resources and supplies."

She added that she is in favor of bringing the fifth graders back to the elementary level.

Stacey Duerst is also in favor of the elementary center concept and echoed what several parents and taxpayers were expressing at the meeting.

"When are you going to stop playing with this, make a decision, and get it done?" asked Duerst. "When are we going to do right by the students?"

David Bradley suggested that a traffic study be done and questioned the safety of having all of the elementary students in one location.

He also stressed the importance of return on investment for taxpayers.

The next regular meeting of Lehighton Area School Board is scheduled for 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 27 at LASD Administration Building, Conference Room A.