Rhodesia Kinnard was very clear in voicing her objection to a recommendation to close either Lemoyne or New Cumberland middle school in the West Shore School District.
"I told my son about this and he said 'Mommy, that sucks,'" she said. "I agree with him on that one."
Kinnard was among three dozen parents and residents who spoke about the issue during a public hearing attended by more than 200 people Wednesday at Cedar Cliff High School in Camp Hill.
The district's demographics committee has been examining how to reset its attendance boundaries to bring more students to Allen Middle School in Camp Hill and to Crossroads Middle School in Lewisberry in order to accommodate population movement.
Also, the district would have an easier time balancing its budget with the possibility of saving more than $1.15 million, including $1.04 million in staff salaries and $155,000 in utilities costs, with the closure of either Lemoyne or New Cumberland middle school.
The district's school board now has 90 days to make a decision about the closure. The public has until noon Friday, Jan. 25, to submit comments on the matter. The comments will be passed on to the school board later this month, said Tom Burnheimer, the district's director of pupil services.
With a school closure, the district would have only a little more than a $48,000 deficit in its $96.2 million budget. That deficit would be closed with the district's fund balance, said Ryan Argot, the district's spokesman.
By shifting the boundaries, Allen Middle School, which has an enrollment capacity range of 525-575 students, would have about 540 students for the 2013-2014 school year. Crossroads, with a 720 to 775 capacity range, would have about 755 students.
New Cumberland or Lemoyne would absorb students from whichever school would close. Currently, there are 397 students at Lemoyne, while 354 students attend New Cumberland.
The recommendation is that whichever school remains open will have 535 students, since the redistricting would result in other students going to either Allen or Crossroads.
Kinnard asked Burnheimer whether the committee recommending talked with the "highly intelligent" students who would be affected by a school closure and student transfers.
When Burnheimer answered "no," adding that students could offer comments, Kinnard, a former Dallastown resident, interrupted him.
"Anthony, come here please," she said as the audience applauded. "Speak up nice and clear. Tell them what you think."
Kinnard's son, an 11-year-old sixth-grader at New Cumberland, said he likes his school because he not only has great friendships, but knows teachers and staff members.
"I feel that closing (New Cumberland) would be very sad for me," he said. "I would have to make new friends."
Several other speakers, including Jeri Kramer of Lemoyne and Seth Coffman, a New Cumberland Middle School daylight custodian, said they agreed with Kinnard and Anthony that the district should not put money ahead of the academic and social well-being of its students.
Students who already made adjustments from elementary to middle school would be forced to make more adjustments to attend another middle school, Kramer said.
Several speakers said the committee should not only consist of school officials and three of the district's nine board members.
They said the district should scrap the closure idea and develop another committee that includes parents, students and residents to come up with other ways to raise money and keep schools open.
Other speakers said West Shore went through a redistricting process six years ago and they fear it could happen again within the next few years.
The West Shore School District will accept public comments on the school closure recommendations until noon Friday, Jan. 25.
Comments can be made online at www.wssd.k12.pa.us or by mailing them to West Shore School District, c/o Ryan Argot, P.O. Box 803, New Cumberland 17070.
-Reach Eyana Adah McMillan at firstname.lastname@example.org.