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Should Aging Elementary Schools Be Fixed Up or Shut Down in Lehighton?

LEHIGHTON – Back to school is coming with a dash of controversy in one district in Carbon County, with some parents and taxpayers upset over plans to close four buildings.

Administrators at Lehighton Area School District are moving forward with plans to build a $32.5 million Elementary Center near the high school building and to close down the district’s four current elementary buildings.

According to officials, Mahoning, East Penn, Franklin, and Shull-David elementary schools were built in the 1950s and are in need of costly repairs.

School board members voted 5-4 last month in favor of building one building for all 1,000 K-5 students in Lehighton Area School District rather than repair the old schools scattered throughout the area.

Superintendent Jonathan Cleaver told Newswatch 16 that the proposal makes sense and will save taxpayers money in the long run.

“People think that their taxes will go up because of this building. We are projecting, and this is a very conservative projection, of saving $1.2 million in operational costs a year.”

More than 100 people packed a school board workshop meeting Monday night, including Tara Wise.

“My husband went to Franklin Elementary, so it’s kind of sentimental for her to go there to, and I have a baby that would have went there, too,” said Wise.

Other people who attended the workshop said they were worried about larger class sizes, longer bus rides and a property tax hike in the future.

“Living on a fixed income, I’m a widow. I don’t want to be put out of my home because of taxes,” said Ilene Getz.

“We could fix the schools, reduce the taxes per year, give a tax rebate and still have money to provide over for the children, rather than for some building,” said David Bradley.

For now, school board members have indicated that they will move forward with plans and hope to start construction on the Elementary Center next summer.

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