Washington Twp. parents vent about move to Northern school district

Erin Bamer
York Dispatch
Northern High School in Dillsburg, Friday, Aug. 9, 2019. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Several Washington Township parents shared concerns over the municipality's  transition to the Northern York County School District, nine years after township parents fought to secure the  move. 

In January, the state Supreme Court sided with a group of residents, the Washington Township Education Coalition, ending a yearslong battle over whether Washington Township students should remain in the Dover Area School District or attend Northern's schools. The coalition argued that Northern's district offered a better education with a lower tax rate. 

On Tuesday, Northern York County officials talked to parents during a virtual community forum as one of the first steps of the transition process. Approximately 220 students are expected to transition to the district from the Dover Area School District effective July 1. 

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Northern Superintendent Steven Kirkpatrick said the transition plan will not be finalized until district officials have a better idea of how it will impact the district's budget. However, the district has developed an initial plan to allow some students up to three years before switching to Northern schools. 

According to the plan, Washington Township students can stay at Dover schools for up to three years and can switch to Northern schools at any point within this period. The exceptions are students heading into grades K-2, or students switching school levels, such as going from elementary school to middle school. 

Parents asked dozens of questions during the meeting, but a common theme arose from parents who did not want their students to switch districts. Several parents repeatedly asked officials if Northern York County could make special accommodations for families with multiple students that wanted to stay in Dover schools. 

Parent and Dover school board member Rachel Mailey said she has three students attending Dover schools, with two other children as Dover graduates. Under Northern York County's plan, all but one of her children will be able to graduate from Dover Area High School. She said she and her children are invested in the Dover community, and she wants all of her children to have the opportunity to graduate from the same school. 

Parent Amy Wintermyer said her family bought their house last year with the intent for their elementary student to attend Dover schools. At the time, she said she had no idea of the developing court battle, and she is concerned with how the transition will affect her child. The same sentiment was expressed by several other attendees. 

"Many of us bought our house so our children could attend Dover," parent William McDowell said. "We did not ask for this to happen."

Assistant Superintendent Jason Beals said he wished the district had more time to make the decision. He said several officials were "caught off guard" by the court's decision  and that the district is considering filing a petition for an extension. 

Kirkpatrick said "there isn't going to be an easy answer" for some families but reiterated that the final plans have not been set yet, and officials will take the parents' thoughts into consideration. 

"Your voice is being heard," he said. 

Northern York County will hold another virtual community forum March 9 for Northern parents, which Kirkpatrick said will be more focused on the transition's impact on schools and the district's budget.