Chestnuthill school will close its doors
LINDA KOEHLER/TIMES NEWS Chestnuthill Elementary School as it is today.
First Eldred Elementary School in Kunkletown closed. Now, Chestnuthill Elementary in Brodheadsville will meet the same fate.
By a vote of 6-0 Thursday, the Pleasant Valley School Board made the difficult decision to close the doors of this 86-year-old institution. School directors MiChelle Palmer, James Spinola and Steve Borger were absent.
Dr. Douglas Arnold, school superintendent, prefaced the reading of the resolution with heartfelt words of his own.
"Between the ages of 6-9, I never imagined I'd be involved in the closing of Chestnuthill. This is where I went to school my first three years. This was not an easy decision," he said.
His father, Charles Arnold, was a math teacher at Chestnuthill when it was a high school from 1945-59.
School director H. Charles Hoffman also has strong ties, having graduated from Chestnuthill in 1952. His father, Henry C. Hoffman also taught at the school for over 25 years while his mother, Mary, was a substitute teacher.
"I hate it. But I voted 'yes' to the closing. I did it to save the taxpayers money," he said.
Chris Fisher, assistant to the superintendent for professional, support and pupil services, shared Chestnuthill Elementary principal duties with Carole Geary, assistant superintendent/curriculum this 2011-2012 school year. He also attended Chestnuthill Elementary as a student. While it is difficult knowing his old school will close, he also understands the need for it.
"The district's enrollment is dropping. By closing the school we'll save over $800,000 annually, more if you include the reduction of the transportation cost," he said.
Currently there are 189 K-4 grade students, 21 teachers and 16 support staff at Chestnuthill. Fisher said that the students and staff will be matriculated to Polk and Pleasant Valley Elementary Schools.
As of now, Polk Elementary in Kresgeville is not in jeopardy of the same fate, according to Fisher,
"We're watching the numbers and they're holding their own," said Fisher.
School director Russ Gould was also a student at Chestnuthill.
"A couple of years ago, we closed Eldred. This isn't any easier," he said. "Fiscally, this is the right thing to do. But I don't know if it is the right thing to do for the kids."
He thinks by closing the smaller schools, kids miss out on what makes a small school so endearing.
"It's like a family. Everyone knows everyone else," he said.
Desiree Murray, a paraprofessional at Chestnuthill and the mother of three children who attended the school, would agree. She addressed the board with her own words of regret and nostalgia.
"I am so sad, as I am sure all of you are as well," she said.
Murray thanked the board for their hard work and expressed gratitude for being such a fiscally responsible board and school district.
"My hope is one day Chestnuthill will open again and that new families can experience all that I and my children have."
Since most surrounding school districts are also faced with declining enrollment and loss of financial state aid, Murray credited the Pleasant Valley officials for making sound decisions to avoid even stronger cost-cutting measures.
To meet budget, Pocono Mountain is proposing to cut 295 jobs over the next school year and already cutting 160 this school year. It's also considering closing three schools at the end of 2011/2012 year and its teachers and administrators have agreed to a wage freeze for the school year.
The Stroudsburg district is proposing to cut 25 paraprofessionals and about 100 faculty, close Ramsey Elementary, enact a districtwide wage freeze, eliminate certain language courses, as well as all athletic and extra curricular activities and all day Kindergarten.
East Stroudsburg is proposing salary freezes, and to eliminate all-day Kindergarten, behind the wheel driver's education, six 72-passenger school buses and six drivers, and to possibly close J.M Hill and/or Smithfield elementary schools.