East Stroudsburg Debates Closing a School

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The East Stroudsburg School Board is thinking about closing one of two elementary schools to fill a $10 million gap in the budget.

The public hearing was held Friday night so people could give their opinions, as the East Stroudsburg school board makes its decision. Should it close JM Hill Elementary or Smithfield Elementary, or keep them open.

One group of parents and teachers has banded together to make sure the schools stay open.

Hundreds of people filled the auditorium at East Stroudsburg South High School to voice their opinions on a controversial issue.

“Closing a school is devastating to a community. Children are uprooted from their friends and their teachers,” said Roseanne Weitzel of East Stroudsburg.

The East Stroudsburg School District faces a $10 million budget deficit next year.

Closing JM Hill Elementary School in East Stroudsburg would save the district more than a million dollars in personnel and operating costs.

Closing Smithfield Elementary in Smithfield Township would save the district $1.6 million.

Two weeks ago when parents were notified about the meeting, about 20 of them got together and formed the Facebook group "Save our East Stroudsburg schools."

“Much like we've seen with other online things, it's been a tremendous organizing tool. We've used online to pass materials back and forth, pass ideas back and forth to each other,” said Scott Amori who is part of that Facebook group.

In addition to the social media campaign aimed at keeping both schools open, hundreds of people have signed this online petition. The group even paid for an ad in a local newspaper encouraging people to attend the public hearing, and many did, in support of both Smithfield Elementary.

”Smithfield Elementary has a full functional kitchen. JM Hill does not. Smithfield Elementary has a fully functional gymnasium and stage,” said Mike Perez.

And JM Hill Elementary.

“As the only distinguished institution in the neighborhood, it is the single defining presence. The school represents not only the defining characteristic of the neighborhood but the social and cultural hub as well,” said Ernest Mahar.

Board members said they have tried to make cuts in other areas of the budget but that's just not working.

If you couldn't attend Friday night’s meeting, people have three months from that day to submit comments to the school board.

Board members said they will likely make a decision in June.