York Suburban board to vote Monday on closing elementary school

Erin Bamer
York Dispatch
Student teacher Brian Baker works with children in a Autistic support class at Valley View Elementary School , December 9, 2016.John A. Pavoncello photo

The York Suburban school board is considering closing one of its four elementary schools in the next school year, and the timing of the discussion is stirring up some controversy. 

According to a letter sent to district parents Wednesday, Superintendent Timothy Williams said York Suburban's Academic Standards and Curriculum Committee recommended the district realign its elementary schools from four buildings to three starting in the 2021-22 school year.

The school board will vote to accept or reject the recommendation at its Monday meeting, according to the letter. 

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Officials are in the process of identifying which elementary school would close under the plan, Williams said. He said the district would likely choose the smallest building to close, but he did not specify which school that was.

The recommendation comes after two years of discussing possible changes to grade structures within the district. In February 2019, a facilities study found that each of the district's buildings was in need of adjustments to meet increased enrollment needs or update outdated infrastructure. 

Williams said that district officials paused the discussions during the COVID-19 pandemic but that the district is now in a place where the discussions can resume.

With elementary classes spread between buildings, Williams said, some students don't meet the students they will be graduating with until sixth grade. The recommendation would allow those students to meet in kindergarten. 

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The recommendation would also make it easier for the district to manage class sizes and to do so with fewer staff, Williams said. 

Katie Brantner, co-president of the Indian Rock Elementary Parent Teacher Organization, said in an email that some people in the district think the discussion is happening "at the wrong time" because of the pandemic and the need for social distancing.

The York Suburban school board recently decided to transition its elementary schools to offer four days of in-person classes for all students starting in March, while all schools currently operate with students in classes two days per week. 

Williams said he doesn't believe the COVID-19 pandemic is relevant to the decision. If COVID-19 is still a concern in the fall, he said, social distancing is easier to ensure in the district's elementary schools when compared with its secondary schools.

"I don't think that the pandemic plays a role in this decision," he said. 

Social distancing is easier to manage in elementary hallways, according to Williams, because students don't leave their classrooms at the same time like they do in middle school and high school. Although schools would be consolidated under the recommendation, he said, many class sizes would remain the same, and some may even get smaller. 

That's because some of the district's elementary schools have higher enrollment than others, he said. If the recommendation is approved, the class sizes would be more balanced across the schools, and some class sizes might shrink as a result. 

To participate in Monday's virtual meeting, go to www.yssd.org/schoolboard. A link to the meeting will be posted five minutes before the 7 p.m. meeting. There's also a link on that page for anyone who wants to make a public comment.