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Changes considered at Rush Elementary

Published April 09. 2010 05:00PM

The Tamaqua Area School District is considering options for optimum use of Rush Elementary School in Hometown.

Rush, one of three elementary schools in the district, currently has 120 students in kindergarten through grade five, as well as special education classes, according to Superintendent Carol Makuta.

One proposal is to turn Rush Elementary into a K-1 Center for students in kindergarten and first grade. That would mean taking grades 2-5 out of Rush and moving them to Tamaqua Elementary School.

When contacted Thursday, Makuta said she had planned to discuss the proposal with the Tamaqua Area Board of Education during its monthly committee meetings, scheduled for Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the middle school's Large Group Instruction room.

Word of the proposal has filtered to the parents of Rush Elementary students, and some are opposed to the plan.

"We are extremely upset about this," said Kelly Balogach, Lake Hauto, who has daughters in grades 2 and 4 at the Hometown school and contacted the TIMES NEWS about the possible move. "I pay taxes, and I want my kids to attend Rush Elementary.

"We moved into the school district because we wanted our kids to attend Rush. My children shouldn't be bounced around because they can't figure out what to do with the rest of the building."

Makuta explained that Rush Elementary currently has about half of its rooms empty, and administration has been charged with operating the building more efficiently.

The district has looked at the current attendance at Rush, as well as kindergarten enrollment for next year. It has also examined what could be done with special education programming and the possibility of using more rooms as computer labs and for occupational therapy.

"We've tried to create a balance," said Makuta.

"One recommendation is to make Rush Elementary primarily a kindergarten and first grade center, and move grades 2-5 to Tamaqua Elementary," Makuta added.

The district would monitor class sizes should such a move be made, but converting Rush to a K-1 center could provide those grades with a sound academic environment for improvement, stated Makuta.

She spoke to the teachers on Wednesday regarding the proposal.

"I wanted to see what their concerns are, and I found there was more positive feedback than concerns," she related.

Makuta said she also wanted to discuss the proposal with the Parent-Teacher Organization, as well as presenting it to the board on Tuesday.

She and elementary Principal Steven Behr were also available at the school Thursday to answer parents' concerns.

Balogach said such a move doesn't take into account her desire to have her children attend Rush.

"We love Rush Elementary. The teachers there are great," Balogach said. "We make many personal and financial decisions based on our daughters' education. If we wanted them to go to Tamaqua Elementary, we would have bought a house in Tamaqua."

Balogach said she found out about the plan through what she called a "faculty leak."

"I respect and value those teachers who put this out there for the parents and let us know," she commented.

Other options should be explored for the unused rooms, Balogach said.

"I don't have a problem with them utilizing their space, but this is my kids' home school. Why is West Penn Elementary left alone? Why can't they bring Tamaqua kids up to us? It's absurd to pick out a group of kids and disrupt their educational setting," she mentioned.

Makuta said that as superintendent, her role is to provide for the welfare of all students.

"I have to look at the entire district," she stressed. "I find the input from parents extremely important and value their opinions.

"We are not trying to alarm people. We are searching for ways to utilize these buildings to the best advantage."

For Balogach, that means keeping Rush Elementary a K-5 school.

"I could see this if they were planning to close Rush Elementary," she remarked. "We are talking about my daughters' academic careers, and this is when you get your fundamentals. I have a problem with my kids being disrupted."

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