HUNTINGDON - A citizens group contends that the Huntingdon Area School District has violated the Pennsylvania Sunshine Act over the proposed closing of two elementary schools.
The allegations were made during a recent school board meeting.
The citizens' claim that the issue about possibly closing Jackson Miller and Brady Henderson-Mill Creek elementary schools was raised during a May 1 board retreat - a potential Sunshine Act violation. They said a majority of the board members were in attendance, requiring the meeting to be open to the public.
The school board voted 5-4 Nov. 15 to schedule state-mandated hearings before either school could be closed.
"We don't think we have done anything wrong," Superintendent Jill Adams said last week. "We had the retreat in May and there were probably six members of the board there. We talked about an array of issues. I gave what is known as the 'state of the district' address, if you will.
No one except a judge can say for sure if the Sunshine Act has been violated, attorney Melissa Melewsky of the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association said.
There is a "gray area" when it comes to school board retreats, she said.
"When these kinds of retreats are held and things such as enrollment and other matters are discussed, they have to be careful how they discuss the matter," Melewsky said.
"If they talked about the school closings, then it could possibly constitute a violation."
Retreats such as the one held by the Huntingdon Area School Board are not uncommon across the state, board solicitor Carl Beard said.
"A majority of school districts hold these retreats, and the boards use these retreats to discuss and review the state of the district," he said. "But there had been talks of the possibility of closing those schools for years. No decisions were made at the retreat."
The group, which has hired Lewistown attorney Alan Levin to represent them, also contends that the district has not fulfilled all of its Right-to-Know request for information on the proposed closings.
"We have given them everything they have asked for," Adams said
All the group wants is for the school district to take the time to do a feasibility study, Levin said.
"We want them to do think about this and do it rationally," he said.
During the public comment portion of the November meeting, supporters of both elementary schools urged the board for about 90 minutes to not close either school.
"I stand by what I did during that meeting," Adams said. "I asked the board to consider going forward with the Section 780 hearings and they voted and approved it."
No date has been scheduled for the hearings.