Closure of South Street now official

What has been proposed is now official: South Street Early Learning Center will close at the conclusion of this academic year.

The Warren County School District’s board of directors approved a motion on Monday night to formally close the school. The vote was held as part of the consent agenda, where 26 other items were listed and one vote was held to approve them all.

The vote was unanimous for the closure, which will take effect on June 10, 2013.

Two related resolutions were also approved.

One formally moves sixth grade students back to Beaty-Warren Middle School for next school year after being held at Warren Area Elementary Center during the current school year as a result of construction.

The other stipulates that kindergarten and first grade students in the central attendance will attend WAEC moving forward.

The text of the motion cites four specific reasons for the closure, indicating that action was taken “due to the declining enrollment within the District, due to the increased budgetary constraints being placed on the District as a result of a decrease in both state funding and local revenue sources, in order to create necessary financial savings, and in order to implement the September 2008 Warren County School District Master Facilities Plan, as amended, which takes into account the preceding factors.”

A closure hearing the first step in the process was held on June 4, 2012 at Struthers Library Theatre in downtown Warren. That hearing covered South Street as well as the other four elementary schools that will eventually be closed as a result of the installation of K-12 facilities in the northern and eastern attendance areas. Administration explained at that session that Pennsylvania Department of Education enrollment projections indicate that the merger will be able to occur.

While the closure of South Street was originally projected for the 2014-2015 academic year, Acting Superintendent Amy Stewart said last month that closing the building now is still within the confines of the master facilities plan.

“This wasn’t arbitrary,” she said last month. “This was in the scope of the plan. This is early (but we) stayed within the scope of what was laid out before us.”

According to PDE, “in the event a school board shall determine prior to the beginning of the next school term to close any school or department, sixty (60) days notice, in writing, prior to the closing of any school or department, shall be given to all temporary and professional employees.”

At the closure hearing, projected savings from the closure were estimated at over $750,000. Current projections reduce the savings to approximately $500,000, primarily due to staffing savings that were realized during the last budget cycle.

Opponents of the measure have cited numerous concerns over the last several months since the possibility of closure was originally raised. Class size, potential overcrowding at WAEC and transportation and parking concerns were among the criticisms of the proposal.