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West Shore School District is mulling a plan to upgrade its facilities and is considering two options that would renovate aging buildings and meet the needs of what it calls a “shifting student population.”

The district has conducted an online resident survey, sent a mailer and this week held a forum to hear residents’ questions and concerns regarding two options for its renovation project.

It is vital to take into consideration the taxpaying residents’ opinions, as we learned recently in Spring Garden Township, where plans for a municipal complex were nixed following public outcry over the cost and attendant proposed increase in taxes.

There is considerable cost attached to the proposals for West Shore, as well.

The first option, a “feeder” school concept, would close four schools and change the school structure to four levels: an elementary K-4, intermediate schools for grades 5-6, middle schools for grades 7-8 and two high schools. During opening remarks, Sanders announced a new grade 5-6 intermediate school would open near Red Land High School under the first option.

The estimated cost for the first option is currently set at $218 million to $247 million.

The second option would “focus on consolidation” and would keep the current three-level structure of elementary, middle and high schools. However, Lower Allen Elementary, Rossmore Elementary and New Cumberland Middle schools would all be vacated under the plan.

In addition, Cedar Cliff High School would be turned into a large middle school, leaving the district with Red Land High School as its sole secondary school. In all, the option would decrease the number of schools in the district from 14 to 11. The second option would have a cost of $213 million to $242 million.

Under each plan, the property tax rate would go up approximately 2.9 percent each year for the next 10 years.

Residents who attended a forum this week had a number of questions to ask of — and opinions to share with — district representatives.

The possibility of merging high schools didn’t sit well with most. A potentially adverse effect on traffic volumes  also was mentioned. And the cost was another topic of interest with residents in attendance.

It would serve the district well to take residents’ comments and suggestions to heart. Now is the time to ensure it reaches as many residents as possible so they are aware of the potential changes to the makeup of the schools and the possibility of an increased tax burden for the next decade.

And residents, don’t be shy. Join those who are already involved and become informed about what’s being proposed.

The public can shape the plans if they get engaged and stay involved. That will go a long way to ensure the good stewardship of their hard-earned tax money.

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