Closure of South Street school may be moved up to next year

It’s been in the design for the last year to close South Street Early Learning Center as part of the Warren County School District’s master facilities plan.

But a proposal from district administration might accelerate that closure by one year and close South Street before the start of the 2013-2014 school year.

Superintendent Brandon Hufnagel explained the idea to the school board on Monday night.

“We met with (Principal) Ruth Nelson at Warren Area Elementary Center and put together a plan,” Hufnagel said. “We felt that with where we are at Beaty, we can move those sixth graders back over to Beaty,” leaving “enough classrooms to move kindergarten and first grade to WAEC.”

Sixth grade was housed at WAEC this school year as an accommodation for the $16.2 million renovation project underway at Beaty-Warren Middle School.

“We have already made plans to move sixth graders back to Beaty,” Hufnagel said on Wednesday.

Hufnagel said that the closure will save the district $500,000 in the 2013-2014 budget, with additional savings to be found in the future in decreased facilities maintenance costs.

Hufnagel explained that he is hopeful that no employees will be furloughed as a result of the closure but said that staffing will ultimately hinge on class size.

A closure hearing, the first step in the school closure process, was held in June of last year regarding South Street, as well as the schools in the eastern and northern attendance area.

At that hearing it was explained that, according to Pennsylvania Department of Education enrollment projections, K-5 in the central attendance area will be able to be consolidated at Warren Area Elementary Center. Another reason the switch makes sense is that 74 percent of buses in the central attendance area currently stop at WAEC.

“It is the administration’s hope that the board and public will come to agree with the administration that closing the five schools is in the best interest of the district,” Superintendent Brandon Hufnagel said at the closure hearing. “The closure of all five schools is necessary to implement the Master Facilities Plan.”

At the time, school district officials estimated a closure date to be before the 2014-2015 school year.