Parents, Students React to School Closings

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Pink slips are starting to go out Thursday to nearly 300 teachers and staff in one of our area's largest school districts.

It comes after the Pocono Mountain School Board decided Wednesday night to shut down three schools.

The process to lay off workers and move students to new schools is now officially underway.

Next year school buses will no longer be running to and from Coolbaugh Learning Center. It will close at the end of the year.

Swiftwater Intermediate School is on the chopping block too.

Coolbaugh Elementary Center will also be shutting down.

Some 1,600 students now go to those three schools.

"I think it's kind of messed up.  A lot of kids are used to Coolbaugh," said parent Jahaida Diaz. She has a daughter in kindergarten at Coolbaugh Elementary. She is saddened most that 280 people are losing their jobs in the Pocono Mountain School District, including teachers many students have grown attached to. "She loves it. She loves her teacher and everyone else in there is very nice to her."

Eddie Maher goes to school at Coolbaugh Learning Center. He too was upset hearing about the layoffs.

"It's also sad. The economy's already bad enough, no jobs. It's getting worse. It's bad," said Maher.

While three schools, including Swiftwater Intermediate, are closing, all schools in the district will be affected. It's going to be a complete restructuring.  Grades are going to change in the elementary centers.  There will be different grades going to the high schools. Just about every part of the district will be impacted.

"My job is terminated. In a few weeks I will be unemployed," Said one teacher after Wednesday night's school board meeting.

It was then that the teacher layoffs became official. The next few days layoff notices will go out to 280 district employees.

The board also set in motion notices that will go to parents in the next few weeks notifying them where their child will go next fall.

"Communication is critical so everyone understands what's taking place and how things will work for next year," said Wendy Frable of the Pocono Mountain School District.

She added the decisions were necessary because of a big budget shortfall.
She said district wide, schools were only at 64 percent capacity.

Even with the three school closures, capacity will only be at 74 percent.

"This is a very difficult time for everyone. Our heartfelt sympathy to any of the employees who are facing a cut.  We need to focus on teaching and focus on our children because we want this to be a seamless transition for our students," Frable added.

Despite all the cuts, there is still a $500,000 shortfall at Pocono Mountain.

That district grew like mad for more than a decade, but in the last couple years, enrollment is down around 1,000 students.