Good Schools in Good Places

Who are the Downtown Dragons?

See our response to “Facts and Misconceptions” by Dr. Mark DiRocco, superintendent of LASD.

We are citizens, parents, students, and educators.  We live in the Borough, in Linntown, in Kelly Township, East Buffalo Township, Union Township, in meadows, on pheasant ridges, in apartments, houses, and everything in between.

We want the LASD to review its decision to relocate the LASD high school out of the Borough.  We seek schools across the district that are good for learning and teaching, AND good for the environment and good for fostering community.

What Can You Do On This Blog?

Learn about the issues.  Learn about the LASD.  Learn about what other experts say about schools, costs, and renovation.  Learn what your fellow citizens have been saying.

How Can I Help?

  1. Follow this blog (see sidebar to your right!)
  2. Like this blog on facebook, twitter, and so on.  Or, email the link to anyone who wants to learn more.
  3. See our action page.

8 Responses to Good Schools in Good Places

  1. prwiley says:

    I visited this blog as the result of reading “The true costs of a new high school” in today’s (1/19/14) Daily Item.

    I am concerned that the editorial could leave some readers with the impression transfer of monies to the district’s capital reserve fund were the sole cause of cuts in operating budgets in the district. It is important to understand that forces other than the desire to build a new high school are at work on the LASD budget.

    Among the most important of these forces is the almost $1 BILLION cut in state aid to local school districts in 2011. This cut had significant effects on operating budgets in nearly every school district in the Commonwealth and its effects continue. According to the PA Association of School Administrators, 75% of PA school districts plan instructional cuts 2013-14, even those not considering building new schools ( http://www.pasa-net.org/NewsRelease6-5-13.pdf see also http://www.pasa-net.org/SchoolFinanceReport6-5-13.pdf for a full account ).

    To their credit, area school superintendents worked to warn the public about the impact of the 2011 cuts before they were passed ( http://newsitem.com/opinion/letters/superintendents-fear-long-term-impact-of-state-education-cuts-1.1131022 ). Dr. DiRocco was a leader in this effort and I was present public meetings other than LSAD functions where he tried to explain what was likely to happen after 2011 and pleaded with local leaders to take notice.

    In my view, the real villain in the situation is Pennsylvania’s system for funding public education. I would hate to see opposition to constructing a new high school rely too strongly on encouraging people to resign themselves to the idea that no reform of that system is forthcoming or even possible. Our local state representatives deserve as least as much heat as the LASD board is getting because the constraints the district faces are largely down to legislative action in Harrisburg.

    For more on the full context of school funding issues, visit The School Funding Campaign web site: http://www.paschoolfunding.org

    • Agreed. There are many simultaneous budget pressures coming to bear and everyone should be in contact with state legislators. This website helps identify the scale of cuts in a given district: http://www.psea.org/Apps/Budget/BudgetImpact.aspx

      Shouldn’t we be even more prudent in this era of reduced public support? Certainly we would agree that Dr. Dirocco deserves credit for steering LASD through the harsh reality of that initial cutback. We need to continue to make choices that reflect current realities and secure the best possible education making prudent use of available resources. We want to focus our spending on things that produce educational benefits, rather than applying them to infrastructure expansion and accompanying overhead increases.

      • prwiley says:

        “Educational benefits” and “infrastructure” are not diametrically opposed.

        Indeed, there is good reason to expect that, if designed properly, a new school will provide educational benefits.

        To take one example, a recent study from the university of Salford at Manchester in the UK ( see http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360132312002582 ) showed that the physical environment of classrooms can improve learning very significantly, by as much as 25% — not a trivial gain.

        This study was limited to primary grade classrooms, but it’s hard to imagine that sensory environment is not an important variable in performance for high school students and teachers alike. Colleges have recognized the importance of classroom design on learning for some time, see, for example http://www.vt.edu/spotlight/innovation/2011-07-11-scale-up/classroom.html

        At the study would suggest, the design factors involved in fostering learning are complex and are not ones that can be reduced to square footage. A 130,000 square-foot school could be wonderful or it could be crappy, the devil is in the design details.

        The question, of course, is whether educational gains from a well-designed school would be as cost effective as other programmatic initiatives that might be implemented over time. In the current case one has to also ask if there are initiatives that can overcome obstacles that current facility may currently impose and may impose in future as it continues to age. Alas, these are questions without simple answers and yet they are the answers one needs to understand what the most prudent use of current and anticipated resources would be.

      • Again, agreed. We are in favor of investing in buildings in ways that provide educational benefits. We are not talking about choosing inadequate classrooms over better ones, but rather about where is the best place to site the better classrooms. Renovation does not mean settling for inadequacy. It means investing wisely in first-class educational facilities in and around existing buildings. Simply having foundations, walls and floors in place can be a significant head start on a project, allowing the same amount of money to get you a higher quality facility. You may want to look into this high quality renovated facility just completed in Williamsport. It is truly state-of-the-art. http://wasd.schoolwires.com/domain/1109

        Some confusion may arise from what is being referred to by infrastructure. Very simply, there are extensive additional costs for civil engineering improvements to roads, intersections, sewer lines, and utility supply at the Kelly Township site. The existing site is already well-served on all those counts. None of those costs (additional multiple millions of dollars) were reflected in the relative prices generated in the feasibility study and only go to make the in town option more economical and therefore a better way of applying education funds. We want to spend our education dollars on classrooms, not ditches and roads.

  2. Chuck Johnson says:

    My biggest concern is space and being prepared for the future. Lewisburg is growing. The school district needs to be prepared for the future and keep low class sizes. The existing site has major limits to growth in all areas.

    Let’s throw money out of the equation. That isn’t the real reason people are against it no matter what they say.

    If the existing site had room to have all sports and add on, then I would be all for it.

    Another thing to think of. If the existing site would be a field right now, LASD would never get approval to build a school there now. Not with the highway, parking, and just overall limit in space.

    It is a little sad, but definitely time to move on

    • Jordi says:

      Your email says “line mountain.” Are you a resident of the LASD? Just curious.

      You seem to define growth potential as the amount of athletic space nearby. I don’t think that should be the tail wagging the dog of a good facility. However, if access to athletic facilities were that important, then any of the options that involved building a HS at the current linntown campus and re-purposing/rennovating the Market st campus for other grades (4-5?) would make more sense. There are MANY fields right there. Plus, with the fairgrounds rd sites near by, it may be possible to build new athletic facilities.

      As to money, yes it does matter. I believe the current proposal at the Newman site includes $6 million for infrastrutcure like roads and sewers. That is money NOT going to the facility.

  3. Chuck Johnson says:

    Yes I am a Lewisburg resident and have a child in the district, among 3 nephews. I teach in Line Mountain School District. We made the huge mistake of renovating instead of building new. It is going to hurt us for many years. Very similar situation.

    I use growth as for students attending the schools. They have been on the steady increase, and will continue. They are gaining more students at a faster rate than any other District 4 school. Most other schools are declining. The current HS does not have the room, even with renovation. You can’t add on there. Parking isn’t enough now.

    No there is not enough room for full athletic facilities at linntown. Plus the wrestling team doesn’t even have a real area to practice.
    You can’t put 4-5 at the HS. Too close to the highway. It would never get approval. It is grandfathered in as a HS. And we really don’t want 9-10 year olds that close.

    Money is not the main reason people are against it. If it was, they would be attacking salaries for the past 8-10 years much harder than this.

    • The update to the District-Wide Facility Study includes very different numbers for the district. We already have some information, just based on the data since 2000 on our population projections page, but we hope to post the updated from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. The information already up includes graphs showing the district enrollment holding remarkably steady over the past decade. Further, we also have analysis showing that while the overall district population is growing, that growth is not occurring among either school age children or cohorts likely to contribute school age children. The new numbers from PDE on the other hand, while showing a need to accommodate 675 students at the high school in 2020, also anticipate a district-wide decline in enrollment of 6% over that same period.

      The district-commissioned feasibility study demonstrated that the existing site could accommodate the entire building program proposed for Newman, including the two gyms, a fitness room and weight room, as well as an expanded auditorium, expanded band, chorus, and art rooms. It concluded this was both feasible and more economical than building at Newman (even before road improvement costs in Kelly are factored in).

      Outdoor athletics facilities could also be accommodated throughout the community. In light of the sheer scale of the Newman acreage, the high school and the Linntown/Eichorn complex could actually be considered to be on the same campus. A stadium and track on the Simon property would be no further from the existing high school than Kelly Elementary will be from the southern-most future fields at Newman.

      And until further funding is secured, there won’t actually be more than a single phys ed field (and possibly two soccer fields, though their implementation over the past summer has been more complicated than anticipated) at Newman. While these facilities appear on the site plan, there is no provision for the approximately $8M in additional funding that will be required to build them. They are not included in the final tally for the district’s Facility Master Plan. That means that at the end of the school day, for the foreseeable future, students will still pile into cars to travel to ballfields, tracks and courts elsewhere in the community. But they will have to travel further to do so, on roads that are less safe.

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