WILLIAMSPORT- Although there was an opportunity for each Williamsport Area School District resident to voice their opinions at Monday night's hearing to discuss possible school closures, some simply wore their message on T-shirts: Save Round Hills.
The hearing allowed concerned parents, students and taxpayers to ask questions and tell the school board why they should not close each or any of the three school being discussed - Round Hills, Sheridan and Stevens elementary schools.
The district is facing an estimated $5 million budget deficit to the extent that it's looking to drastically reduce costs, including closing schools and cutting staff. Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Kelley has presented a proposal that would see staff reductions at each grade level, special education, and maintenance and security.
Last night's hearing focused on the potential closing of Round Hills, Sheridan and/or Stevens elementary schools.
The district will accept written public comments to be added to the record until July 16. A decision on school closure cannot be decided before 90 days after the public hearing, making July 16 the earliest one could be reached.
A majority of those attending last night stood up when Lisa Giacomi, mother of two Round Hills' students, asked who was there to support the elementary school during the public comment period.
"It's more than just a school, it's a community," said Amanda Evans, one of those who stood up in support of Round Hills.
Before residents spoke, the district gave presentations on a 2008 feasibility study, transportation and staffing information. Sheridan was noted as having poor building conditions while Round Hills was listed in good condition, according to the information presented by Vern McKissick, of McKissick Associates. All three buildings were seen to be efficient in use of space.
Some members of the public questioned why the district would close a good building like Round Hills, which also is the newest of the three.
"Why would you choose to close a school in good condition?" asked Melissa Lundy, of Roseville Road.
"Why would you put children in a broken school?" Giacomi asked when talking about busing students from Round Hills to Stevens.
Although Sheridan offers the least amount of space, Lea Summerson, of Chestnut Street, said what counts is what's going on inside the building.
"Bigger is not always better. Quality is better than quantity," she said.
Zach Miller, a kindergarten student at Round Hills, told the board what his feelings would be if his school was closed.
"I will feel super, super ... sad if Round Hills is closed. I love my teachers," he read from the handwritten notes he prepared himself.
Zach's mother, Holly, said the parents of Round Hills will not give up if the school was closed.
"We will fight and we will win," she told the board.
Pete Loudenslager, a general contractor, said he could not believe that the district would save money by keeping an older building open and closing a newer one.
Others questioned if the district had considered hidden costs, such as asbestos removal at Stevens.
"I think we need to get a second opinion," said Joseph Minnella, of Old Lycoming Township.
Some members of the public said the district needs to look at other architects. They said it was a conflict of interest for McKissick to do both the work and feasibility study.
While others chose to look at building condition, Ryan Bower, Round Hills parent, looked at academics. He said the school out-performed Stevens in the PSSA.
"Why would you close the best performing schools?" he asked.
David Raker, of Princeton Avenue, said the fact that the district is discussing closing a school with such good test scores is sending the wrong message that quality doesn't count.
"If we decide on quality ... then Round Hills Elementary School will not be closed," Raker said.
Tammy Williams, who has a son with special needs, said bigger classrooms will hurt her son's education.
"Our children are everything," she said. "... Our children's minds are a terrible thing to waste."