First Posted: 4/4/2013
The Ben Franklin Kindergarten Center in Dupont has been educating Greater Pittston youngsters for the better part of 50 years.
Its doors may soon close, if a consolidation proposal in Pittston Area gains traction. The district has already sent notification to the state it is considering closure.
The Pittston Area School Board will hold a public hearing, as required by law, at 6:30 p.m on April 10 at the Primary Center on Rock Street in Hughestown to hear from parents and district residents. The school could close 90 days after the public hearing.
Superintendent Michael Garzella Garzella said an engineer from Borton Lawson engineering and architectural firm will be at the meeting to present solid figured on how much is needed to keep the school open.
“It’s in the millions, though,” Garzella said. “I don’t think the district can afford that at this time.”
The district spent $34,000 in heating oil last year and $21,000 to power the lights. In addition to the cost savings, he said there are numerous benefits to moving the kindergarten students to the Primary Center, including safety, parking and less transition.
He said the kindergarten students are currently dropped off at the curb near traffic, but the Primary Center is out of traffic and there’s plenty of room for students to move around once they get off the buses. Also, there a substantially more parking for staff, parents and visitors at the Primary Center. And Garzella said if kindergarten is moved to the Primary Center, small children would have one less school to transfer to.
He said repairs are needed, including a new furnace, roof, carpeting and electrical work.
“We’ve been fortunate to get through all these winters on that furnace,” he said, noting that it was installed in 1962.
“We need to ask ourselves if it’s wise to invest in an older building when there’s room in the other, newer buildings,” he said. “The Primary Center is our newest, most modern building.”
The Kindergarten Center’s combined gym/cafeteria causes problems daily because lunch ends at 1:05 p.m and gym class starts several minutes later.
Also, if the carpet is pulled up and the tiles underneath are ripped out, there could be an asbestos issue, Garzella said.
A plan in the works would relocated the Kindergartners to the Primary Center in Hughestown, which would then become the home to kindergarten and first grade.
The second graders would move to the Intermediate Center, which would then house second, third and fourth grades. The fifth graders would move to the adjoining Middle School, which would then handle fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grade. Ninth through twelfth grades would still be housed at the High School in Yatesville.
The Middle School has the most extra space and could handle an extra grade, Garzella said.
The building was built in 1960 and an additional was put on in 1991, the year it changed from an elementary school to the Kindergarten Center. The addition included a nurses office, cafeteria/gym, and an art/music room. A new roof was installed and AC units were put in each classroom.
Garzella doesn’t see a lot of opposition because it is no longer a “neighborhood school.”
“Children from all over the district go there,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll have the same problem Wyoming Area had in trying to close the Harding school.”
Garzella said he has the support of the school board.
“I think everyone’s on the same page.”
About 250 students attend the Kindergarten Center.