Tough economic times are taking a toll in Lancaster where the school district is moving forward with a plan to shut down one of its elementary schools to save money. That's going to mean an adjustment for some Central Avenue Elementary School parents and students who are used to being within easy walking distance to school, but school officials say that with declining enrollment and state aid they're left with little choice but to consolidate.
"I like walking my kids to school. It's exercise," says Kristina White, who lives four blocks from Central Avenue Elementary and walks with her two-year-old daughter to escort her four-year-old son to and from preschool. Her routine will have to change next fall though. Her son is one of 230 students at Central Avenue Elementary who will be reassigned to either Hillview, Como Park, or Court Street elementary schools. Hillview and Como Park are too far for White to walk with her children.
"I am a single mom," says White, "How am I supposed to get my son back and forth to school when I can't even drive?"
Lancaster Schools Superintendent Edward Myszka says closing the school was a difficult but inevitable decision. "Because of the 14 empty classrooms in the district it was inevitable the building would be closed, it was just a matter of when," explains Myszka.
Some of the teachers will be reassigned, but 19 teachers and staff members as well as one administrator will be laid off. For now, the school district has no plans to sell the Central Avenue building. "The building was once closed before in 1978 and we were the landlords for close to 14 years and thus far we plan on doing the same," says Myszka.
Central Avenue Elementary reopened as a school in the early 1990s and that could happen again some day, although it will likely be too late for Kristina White's children. "I love Lancaster don't get me wrong," says White, "I've been here, I went to school here, I grew up here. I'd like my kids to actually grow up here."
Even with the closing of the elementary school, district leaders warn that there may still need to be a tax hike to close rest of the hole in their budget.