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HASD Facility Study Meeting Updates

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Tuesday February 20th, 2024 – The School Board hosted its first community meeting at Hopewell High School regarding its District Wide Facility Study. The High School cafeteria was not at capacity with approximately 60 community guests in attendance at 7:00 pm; albeit some may have been in attendance virtually. Amongst the attendees was our local WPXI 11 News station eager to gather the updates that could impact the entire town.

The overarching message was that we as a town are shrinking, slowly. How do we operate more efficiently. “Right sizing” was mentioned a lot to compensate for reduced class sizes which have gone from 360 in the 80’s, to 250 in the 00’s and 150 today.

There is room in the middle and high schools to absorb the student bodies from most of the elementary schools. The question is just because the kids fit in the square footage, should they? What is best for the students to have the best quality education?

Suffice it to say this is just the first community meeting and there are a lot of questions. HSN heard all kinds of concerns coming from the community like:

1. What happens to the Sport fields if all of the elementary schools close? The answer provided was vague as there are multiple possibilities but no concise plan. With all three elementary schools closing what happens to the baseball, and softball fields at those schools? For starters it does not mean the fields are lost the potential for keeping the fields is always there but under different ownership and planning.

2. What happens to the school properties when they are closed? Do they become eye sores, do they get sold, or can they become something better? Turning Hopewell Elementary into a sports complex with indoor facilities in an effort to best utilize the property and maintain things like the Hopewell Youth Baseball fields that sit on the property is an option, but not one that HSN feels is viable due to the costs needed to maintain those aging buildings. If the purpose of the facility plan is to shed some dead weight with those buildings it is not likely anyone will agree to keeping them in operating order.

3. What does the education look like when merging young kids into one school with much older kids? Would you want elementary kids riding the bus home with high schoolers? The answer for logistical questions like bussing have also not been thoroughly thought out with no resemblance of a plan even being mentioned.

4. If we close the Junior High will we rebuild a pool? Although this question was not answered officially, information was provided that “the pool is one of the largest expenses in the community and the least utilized” and “even if we keep the Junior High open the pool could close”.

5. What do transition plans look like if we decided to build or renovate? This question was also not answered directly but their was discussion regarding timing to complete some of these plans and new builds and major construction could take a couple years which could mean while Margaret Ross is under construction if your kids attend that school they could be displaced for an unknown period of time to either Independence or Hopewell Elementary.

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6. Costs were a big concern but no discussions or data was provided regarding how much any of the options cost which makes it difficult to assess the overall financial impact to the community.

7. How do we account for traffic pattern changes by bringing the entire town from multiple schools into one area surrounding the schools that remain open? A traffic study would be needed to anticipate the needs and could mean future updates to the roadways. Five points is a critical juncture at this point if you can envision another school’s worth of buses clogging up the intersection at rush hour!

8. Timelines for making decisions are by the end of May to select an option. After a decision is made on which option is best funding becomes the next hurdle and the project funds that could be made available might not be available for a few years. If funding becomes available it could mean a lesser tax impact.

If you consider a family living in Hopewell with a child in Kindergarten a decision on which plan to go with won’t happen until they are getting ready to head to first grade, if funding takes two more years to acquire that same child will be going into third grade by the time construction or major changes begin to unfold. If the transition happens slowly the current families with children in the school system now might not even feel the effects of these changes.

Stay close to HSN as we will continue to outline all of the different viewpoints during this major change in our town and how it will impact our community.

Hello Hopewell! While I am not originally a Hopewell native, it has been my home for over 12 years. My wife and I have three beautiful children that all play Hopewell sports including baseball and softball. My wife and I are both active in coaching our Children's teams. I am a member of the Hopewell Youth Baseball Board of Directors and you will probably see me out at the fields at least a few days a week. Most recently coaching my youngest sons TBALL team.

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