by Jonathan Weaver
The closing of Elderton High isn’t the only “shut-down” that is frustrating parents.
Kittanning Township parents and supervisors are mulling over their options after school directors voted last week to close Kittanning Township Elementary, which housed kindergarten through sixth grade — If any options are available, that is.
Township Secretary Robert Conklin reported last night that the Armstrong School District hasn’t offered the municipality the school yet, though is seriously considering an offer from Adelphoi Village.
Conklin and Supervisor Chair Paul Stubrick both said they spoke with School Superintendent Stan Chapp.
“(Chapp) pretty much gave us the impression that it was a done-deal between (the school district) and Adelphoi and if we wanted to rent some of the building with Adelphoi, we’d be more-than-happy to,” Conklin said. “I’m like ‘Well, that’s not how it’s supposed to go down.’”
In the past, closed school buildings have been offered to their home municipalities for as low as $1, including Burrell Elementary, West Kittanning Elementary and Worthington High School. West Kittanning has converted its school into their Borough building and Worthington utilizes the former high school as a community civic center.
At a special school director’s meeting last week, Solicitor Lee Price informed directors and the public of the unsolicited offer, but only requested permission from the Board to have administrators continue the process. Region III Board Director D. Royce Smeltzer made sure of that before voting in-favor of the motion.
“It’s not a formal agreement yet,” Price said last week.
Conklin said the municipality would be interested in using the gymnasium and also office space to move meetings out of the township shed, which was built in 1967.
“If the building’s not in bad shape, we could put it to good use,” Conklin said. “We could get out of (the township shed).”
Adelphoi was not interested in the ball fields or undeveloped space if a deal is made. That space would be retained by the school district.
KESS Little League utilizes the ball field for their practices.
Kittanning Township parents would also like to retain the playground equipment – either moving it to the township park behind the fire department or keeping it on-site – and expand the library inside the building for use by the community.
Conklin said the municipality would not need the entire school and would lease portions of the building out, maybe even to a nursing home.
A portion of the school is still leased through the ARIN IU 28 preschool.
Kittanning Township CPT (Concerned Parents and Teachers) President Susan Sheffler works at Ford City Head Start. Her son, Timmy, would have attended sixth grade at the school if it had not closed.
Timmy will now attend Elderton Elementary.
CPT currently offers a summer library each Tuesday morning in July at the school. Sheffler confirmed it will continue throughout this month despite the school closing.
Kevin Harkleroad lives within 100 yards of the school and is concerned for his children’s safety if the Adelphoi deal is reached.
“I want nothing to do with Adelphoi – nothing,” Harkleroad said.
His three children utilize the playground often.
The building and property would be tax-free to Adelphoi and the municipality. There is no right-to-work tax or zoning ordinance within the municipality.
Conklin further plans to look into the bidding requirements for the property and possibly meet with school directors during their next meeting.
“Unfortunately, there’s no legal way we can stop them because we do not have zoning – by the time we would get zoning, it would be too late. If the school board’s going to go with this, there’s really nothing we can do to stop them,” Conklin said.
The school is on a 16-acre parcel of land with a combined value at more than $763,000. The building was developed in the 1970’s.