HOLLIDAYSBURG - Allegheny No. 1 Elementary School will close at the end of the current school year.
Superintendent Paul Gallagher read aloud the resolution to close the school due to declining enrollment and extensive repairs needed to pass building codes. About 150 people in the senior high school library listened as eight Hollidaysburg Area school board members voted in favor of the resolution.
Dozens of students cried, hugged their parents and consoled each other outside of the library.
An Allegheny No. 1 Elementary student urges the Hollidaysburg Area school board not to close his school.
The school, built in 1954, would have needed about $3 to $5 million in renovations including plumbing, electrical and roofing improvements to pass building codes, board members said.
"We tried things to see if we can do renovations in half measure," board Vice President Darlee Sill said. "There was no way."
Board member Aaron Ritchey was not surprised by the vote. Districtwide enrollment has declined about 10 percent since 2002.
"This school district has been looking to close Allegheny No. 1 for many, many years," Ritchey said. "I think that [board members] felt there was opportunity to close it now.
"Every school [that students will transfer to] has an open classroom in every grade,"?he said. "No student will be traveling more than five minutes."
Aside from the savings on renovation, the district will save $690,000 in building and staff costs. Eliminated employee positions will coincide with retirements, board members said
Those savings will help the district close a $1 million deficit for the 2012-13 school year.
The 223 students enrolled in Allegheny No. 1 will attend Charles W. Longer and Foot of Ten elementary schools, increasing school population to 83 percent and 92 percent capacity, respectively.
Parents and students urged the board not to close the school because students thrive in a small classroom environment that has benefited students.
Earlier this year, the state Department of Education selected Allegheny No. 1 among 13 Pennsylvania schools to compete for national recognition as a Blue Ribbon school.
The No Child Left Behind Blue Ribbon Schools Program honors public and private elementary, middle and high schools that are either academically superior or that demonstrate dramatic gains in student achievement to high levels.
During the months leading up to the decision, board member Wally Tomassetti said he was getting the financial side of the story and was waiting to hear from citizens.
"When it got down to it, it became economics," Tomassetti said. "Hypothetically, we could pay the $3 million to renovate the school, but then we may have to furlough some teachers. You are going to have to pull it from somewhere.
"If we are looking at increasing the size of classes, well then maybe I would have been persuaded a little bit, but there wasn't enough public outcry."
Board member William Padamonsky was absent from the meeting.
Gallagher is meeting this morning with staff to discuss new assignments and orienting the students with several visits to their new schools before the end of the school year.
"I certainly understand the feelings of the parents. A school is like a family," Gallagher said.
But he said students will feel at home when they see their friends and teachers at their new schools.
Class sizes will be no greater than 24 students when students transfer, board members said.
Mirror Staff Writer Russ O'Reilly is at 946-7435.