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Parents debate possible school district merger

By Jennifer Joas, Reporter, JJoas@wfmz.com
Published On: Mar 26 2014 09:30:19 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 27 2014 02:17:21 PM CDT

Neighboring school districts came to the table to discuss possibly becoming one.

EXETER TWP., Pa. -

Neighboring school districts came to the table to discuss possibly becoming one, but the Exeter Township and Antietam school boards were not alone.

Hundreds of people showed up for a meeting at the Reiffton School in Exeter Township to add their input Wednesday night, and the debate got heated at times.

One of those in attendance was Kim Wittich, who has children in Antietam.

"Being a small district also has some disadvantages in what it can offer our students. When you have a larger student body, you can have more opportunities for languages or advanced placement classes, sports," said Wittich, of Lower Alsace Township.

Others, however, expressed concern regarding overcrowding. According to the business manager's presentation, the merger would allow plenty of space for students in the elementary schools and junior high.

But at the high school, there would be an additional 70 students in the 2016-2017 school year compared to what the building can hold.

"It is stressful enough with a whole bunch of kids and grade competition is really hard. Adding more students I do not think would benefit anybody," said Exeter student Bryn Gautieri.

Other parents were worried their taxes would increase with the merger, but school officials said, even without the merger, both districts would be facing deficits.

"Both school districts will be facing challenges related to constraints that all Pennsylvania school districts are facing with the pension launch, with benefit cost increases, contract increases, etc," said Anne Guydish, the business manager for the Exeter Township School District.

Now, each school board has to decide if the advantages of a merger outweigh the disadvantages.

"From the beginning we have said we wanted no unduly adverse impact on the Exeter taxpayer, and we did not want our academic program to suffer. So those are the two criteria by which we are trying to make this decision," said Exeter School Board President Robert Quinter.

Board members said the meeting was about looking at the merger from a financial standpoint. They hope to make a decision by June.