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Closing Dickey pits cost against character

Based on consultants’ estimates, the Keystone Central School Board has an idea as to what it will cost to keep Dickey Elementary School open.

The aging building is showing its wear.

As the consultants from Crabtree, Rorbaugh and Associates reported, Dickey “would need to undergo major renovations in the near future to remain viable.”

The long-term, get-it-right price tag?

It could be several million dollars just to start, including an estimated $250,000 short-term investment to replace a critical electric transformer inside Dickey.

The board then must also ask itself, what will it cost to close Dickey in terms of what investments will be necessary to absorb students into other another school or schools?

We trust the board’s decision will first be based on what’s best for the students.

Certainly, Keystone Central does not want to experience anything like what the Scranton, Pa., public school district is going through, what with multiple schools forced to close simultaneously due to health hazards posed by years of neglect.

Students should, indeed, be housed in schools that are not only safe, but offer quality space, advanced learning tools and — we firmly believe — team teaching.

Indeed, we are heartened that the administration is ahead of things in terms of planning and developing options and is talking about the benefits of fifth-grade Dickey students moving, for example, to Central Mountain Middle School.

That would change the model of sixth-grade through eighth-grade at the middle level ahead of ninth through 12th at the high school.

Many other districts are already doing that.

Change can be good.

Quickly, fifth graders would get opportunities to join clubs and participate in stragetic education programs and learning activities they don’t have access to now.

We also believe that team teaching is the future and we want to learn more about Keystone Central’s plans to create three-member teaching teams specializing in math, English-language arts, science and social studies.

For sure, Keystone Central faces a formidable challenge to create more opportunities for students aimed at improving test scores, programs, career options, overall achievement and more.

We know some significant changes have already been made, are underway and pending to that end.

That’s partly why we say change can be good.

All that said, it is very sad when a local, neighborhood school closes.

There becomes a loss of identity and neighborhood character, plus property values can be negatively impacted.

Walking to school is no longer an option and becomes more costly to taxpayers for transportation.

At the same time, there can be opportunity for new rental housing or even new business office space and jobs in a building such as Dickey.

But Keystone Central’s student population is gradually contracting, evident by the 10 percent decline measured just a few years ago that resulted in over two-dozen teaching positions being eliminated.

Sadly closing Dickey would leave just one Keystone Central public school in the City of Lock Haven: Robb Elementary.

We encourage the school board and administration to continue their information-gathering and transparency as they approach a decision.

We encourage the teachers to weigh in, afterall, they are on the front lines.

Parents who support the school should re-galvanize. They’ve been in this fight before.

But sometimes, the hardest thing and the right thing are the same.

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