School closure? York Suburban pushes back grade-realignment decision to November

Erin Bamer
York Dispatch
York Suburban Senior High School in Spring Garden Township, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018. Dawn J. Sagert photo

A decision on a grade-realignment plan that could lead to the closure of a York Suburban School District elementary school has been delayed until November. 

Superintendent Timothy Williams announced during Monday's school board meeting that a subcommittee on academic standards and curriculum will work between April and September to discuss the best way for the plan to move forward. The school board will vote on a recommendation from the subcommittee in November. 

Williams sent a letter to parents in February announcing that the board would vote that month on a recommendation to permanently close one of the district's four elementary schools to realign grades starting in the 2021-22 school year. The board did not vote on this recommendation, according to the meeting minutes.

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Williams did not mention the proposed elementary closure at the Monday meeting. He said he believes the best instructional model would have three grades taught per building, but he acknowledged that infrastructure needs prevent that from happening with the district's current facilities. He said the subcommittee is tasked with exploring the district's options.

"There's more than one way to do this," Williams said. 

York Suburban has been working on restructuring its grade levels since February 2019, when 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found that each of the district's buildings was in need of adjustments to meet increased enrollment needs or update outdated infrastructure. 

Parents previously criticized the timing of the recommendation. Katie Brantner, co-president of the Indian Rock Elementary Parent Teacher Organization, said in February that the discussion was happening "at the wrong time" because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Williams previously told The York Dispatch he didn't believe the COVID-19 pandemic was relevant to the recommendation.

During the Monday meeting, Williams presented several benefits to realigning the district's grade levels. He said the process would improve the quality of education for students and reduce costs for the district. 

In addition to lowering maintenance and utility costs, Williams said, realignment would cut labor expenses by reducing staff among the administration, teachers and support staff. If York Suburban restructured grades starting in the 2021-22 school year, the district could operate with four fewer teachers than the current structure requires, he said.