West Shore mulls eminent domain as land talks continue

West Shore School district teachers and supporters look on during the West Shore board meeting at Cedar Cliff High School Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016, in Camp Hill. Amanda J. Cain photo

LEWISBERRY —West Shore School District officials hope to avoid employing eminent domain to acquire land in York County where the district intends to build a new intermediate school.

The land in question is a 95-acre parcel at the intersection of Valley and Beinhower roads in Fairview and Newberry townships, according to district records.

District solicitor Dave Jones said officials are nearing an agreement with the landowner, but the school board passed a resolution June 13 permitting the district to acquire the property through eminent domain if talks break down. Though, Jones said, "I do not believe that's going to happen."

West Shore officials had looked at several properties throughout the district before narrowing it down to the one under consideration, owned by the Hughes Irrevocable Trust.

According to the resolution, the parcel is large enough to meet growth projections of the district and allow for updated facilities.

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An attorney representing Hughes Irrevocable Trust could not be reached for comment.

It's part of a larger reorganization aimed at keeping students together as they move from school to school, which requires building a new elementary school and two intermediate schools, said Superintendent Todd Stoltz.

The district would borrow about $118 million for the project, which would include renovations to Allen Middle School. The first $25 million was secured a year ago to cover building a new Rossmoyne Elementary — which would consolidate two sister elementary schools.

The project would ideally span about 10 years, Stoltz said.

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As it stands, students start elementary school with one group. That group gets split and attends different middle schools, before attending one of two high schools, Stoltz said. 

Parents have consistently asked that students not be separated from one year to the next.

For example, students attending Allen Middle School together would then be separated for high school — with most going to Cedar Cliff and the rest going to Red Land high schools.

"We’re incredibly excited to get started," Stoltz said. "With a new Rossmoyne … we see that as the first domino."

Under the new system, the same student body would flow together throughout the system. Intermediate schools, which would be new to the district, are part of the proposed change. 

"We want to be very mindful of where we are locating schools relative to transportation and proximity to neighborhoods," Stoltz said.

The York County intermediate school would serve students in the southern part of the district, which has potential for growth, he said.

West Shore recently accepted bids for Rossmoyne Elementary but cannot move forward with borrowing for the planned intermediate school in York County until the land is acquired.