By Duane Good, EDITOR
Area School district officials anticipate sharing estimates
for upgrading Enders-Fisherville Elementary School at the
Tuesday, Nov. 24 board meeting. (Sentinel photo by Duane
on the secondary campus enters its second and final year,
Halifax Area School District officials now are considering
the future of its two elementary buildings –
Enders-Fisherville and Halifax.
Administrators have been gathering data since late July as a
part of an elementary campus consolidation study, and
presenting their findings at monthly school board meetings.
latest information – specifically, a cost estimate for
upgrades to Enders-Fisherville – will be shared at the next
meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 24 at 7:30 p.m. in the
Halifax elementary cafeteria.
‘‘Sometime by May or June 2016, we hope to have given
to the board every possible piece of information it will need in
order to make a decision on what to do next,’’ said district
Superintendent Dr. Michele Orner who is meeting regularly with other
district officials to gather and process that information.
‘‘Slow and steady will win the race,’’ she noted.
‘‘We have to balance the emotional impact of consolidation with the
meaningful data we see.’’
Background. On the heels of a less than optimistic
financial picture for the district – the latest budget raised taxes,
cut positions and reduced the available fund balance – the board
authorized Orner in late July to begin a study on whether Halifax
and Enders-Fisherville should eventually be brought under a single
Currently, Enders – located in Jackson Twp. – is the
district’s early-childhood facility, housing Pre-K, kindergarten and
first-grade classes. The Halifax Borough school is for
Orner said that, as the study commenced, the district
already was aware that:
• The district lost 189 students between 2005 and
2014; by 2020, projected enrollment is 980.
• Average class sizes are below what is considered
the most effective at each grade level (early-childhood, upper
elementary and secondary).
• At Enders, six classrooms, one office and the
multipurpose room are unused each afternoon.
• As the district’s second-oldest building, Enders
will need what Orner called ‘‘significant repairs in the next
three-to-five years,’’ particularly to its infrastructure (i.e.
electrical, heating, plumbing and ventilation).
• Should Enders be closed, Halifax can not house
additional students without renovations of its own. However, its
infrastructure is comparatively in better shape, having been mostly
upgraded during the past decade.
Operational costs shared. At the present time, Enders
is the focus of the meetings comprised of Orner, Elementary
Principal Carla Sauer, Curriculum Coordinator Dan Borrelli,
Facilities Manager Allen Whitteker and Business Manager Mike Bower.
In late October, the group gave the board its
findings on the cost of operating Enders on a yearly basis.
The total cost is about $2.5 million with all factors
included (i.e. salaries and benefits, bus transportation, energy,
If the school was closed and its students and staff
folded in with Halifax, the net savings per year would be about
$192,000; meaning a little over $2.3 million would be needed on top
of what Halifax costs to run.
‘‘Now the board can have a good handle on the costs
they know they aren’t going to get away from – things like salaries,
transportation and cafeteria costs,’’ according to Orner.
It is hoped that by the Nov. 24 meeting, the group
will present to the board some upgrade estimates for Enders.
‘‘If the board decides to keep the school, it will
have to be repaired,’’ said Orner. ‘‘We have been going through the
building, piece by piece, and identifying what the concerns are and
what’s going to be needed to bring things up to speed.’’
In the future, the group also plans to gather data on
what kind of work Halifax would need – especially if it’s decided to
fold Enders into that location.
‘‘It would need a gymnasium for sure and renovations
to the cafeteria. Right now the lunch line stretches all the way up
the stairs,’’ said Orner. ‘‘You would always have to upgrade
Longtime board member Gary Shade personally leans
toward consolidating the elementary program in Halifax due to its
larger size, in-town location and comparatively better physical
‘‘The heating and air conditioning were replaced
after the molding issue (2004-2005). There were also fittings for
energy-efficient lighting,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s also on the borough’s
water and sewer; (Enders) is on a well.’’
Ultimately, the board will have to decide what
direction to go once all the information is in hand, according to
‘‘Eventually if the board wants to continue looking
at options, they will need an architect to come in and do a true
feasibility study on both buildings, along with more definite costs
on what consolidation would involve,’’ she said.
Says no decisions were made. Orner, the district’s
leader since mid-2014, said she understands and respects the
emotional connection that many parents have with Enders, a past
‘‘Blue Ribbon School’’ designate by the U.S. Department of Education
for the quality of its operation.
She also respects the school’s heritage, knowing that
it was built as a condition for Jackson Twp. to join what was the
brand new Halifax Joint (later Area) School District in the late
‘‘I understand that (Enders) is a special place,’’
she said. ‘‘Even now, there is a definite sense of ‘community’
Some personnel moves have given people the impression
that Enders already is on its way out – an impression Orner said is
Most recently, Halifax Principal Dr. Craig Raisner
asked to be transferred to a vacant elementary music teaching post.
The board appointed Sauer – who had replaced Borrelli as Enders
principal – to lead both buildings instead of hiring a new
administrator for one or the other.
‘‘People said, ‘It’s pretty obvious you are going to
close (Enders).’ No, it’s not very obvious at all,’’ Orner noted.
‘‘It would have been irresponsible of us to be spending money for a
replacement principal while we are still in the process of this
In the end, the district will have to look at many
factors before deciding on a direction forward, according to Orner.
‘‘We have to weigh both the short-term and long-term
impact of consolidation,’’ she said.