The Northern York County School District remains neutral on the issue of Washington Township residents petitioning to leave the Dover Area School District.
But there are a number of unanswered questions leaving Northern in limbo, Superintendent Eric Eshbach said.
Planning to absorb another 320 students — or not — is the main uncertainty, Eshbach said, especially as the district continues its long-range building plans.
"We want to do what's best for kids in any situation," he said.
Several current and former school board members live close to the Washington Township line, he said, and in some cases are neighbors with people who would be affected by the change.
"They (board members) understand the concerns that are out there and they're open to listening," Eshbach said.
The petition: The state Department of Education ruled earlier this month the petition from township residents to leave the Dover Area School District has educational merit.
That means the petition will go back to court and will likely appear before the board of education for a final decision.
If the board would approve the change, Washington Township students would attend Northern schools.
The secondary school buildings could handle the additional students without any large-scale adjustments, Eshbach said.
But at the elementary level, Dover students would be sent to Northern and Wellsville elementary schools. And even an additional 15 students per school could mean needing to hire additional staff and finding extra classroom space, he said, adding that's especially true at Wellsville Elementary.
"We would probably have to add classrooms at that building," he said.
Building projects: The district is already in the middle of other building projects, including a $7 million renovation and addition to Dillsburg Elementary.
The district is adding eight classrooms, remodeling the HVAC system and making updates to the building, which was constructed in 1979 and hasn't been touched since, Eshbach said.
The Dillsburg Elementary project began the day after school was finished this year and is slated to be finished next summer.
Other district projects wouldn't begin until Dillsburg is finished, but attempting to plan for the future is more of a challenge with not knowing whether to count on those additional students, he said.
Wellsville would be the next school to receive an update, Eshbach said; the challenge will be deciding whether to add classrooms.
If new students come, they'll be used, but if they don't, the district runs the risk of spending money and not using the rooms, he said.
Best for students: Eshbach said he wants to see a "full vetting" of the proposal, and he wants to give everyone a chance to share their opinion on the matter.
But he said he also hopes a decision can be reached "sooner rather than later" — at the very latest by the end of the next school year.
And though building concerns are important, Eshbach said concerns about moving students are also important.
Bringing to mind a quote he'd heard about not treating students as furniture, Eshbach said he hopes there is a clear plan for transition if the change goes through.
"We shouldn't think it's that easy to move children without some sort of repercussions," he said.
— Reach Nikelle Snader at firstname.lastname@example.org.